Style Guide

The style guide is not a dictionary. It is a standardized set of guidelines and corrections to common erros in Phi Kappa Tau publications. Please utilize it when creating or editing pages on the Resource Library.

Table of Contents


abbreviations and acronyms

Do not use acronyms that the reader would not quickly recognize. Some organizations and government agencies are widely recognized by their initials: CIA, FBI and GOP. If the entry for such an organization notes that an abbreviation is acceptable in all references or on second reference, do not follow the organization’s full name with an abbreviation or acronym in parentheses or set off by dashes. If an abbreviation or acronym would not be clear on second reference without this arrangement, do not use it.

In general a two-letter acronym has periods; others do not. Omit periods in acronyms with more than two letters USA unless the result would spell an unrelated word. Include periods in acronyms with two letters U.S.

academic degrees

If mention of degrees is necessary to establish someone's credentials, the preferred form is to avoid an abbreviation and use instead a phrase such as: John Jones, who has a doctorate in psychology.

Use an apostrophe in bachelor's degree, a master's, etc., but there is no possessive in Bachelor of Arts or Master of Science.

Use such abbreviations as B.A., M.A., LL.D. and Ph.D. only when the need to identify many individuals by degree on first reference would make the preferred form cumbersome. Use these abbreviations only after a full name – never after just a last name.

When used after a name, an academic abbreviation is set off by commas: John Snow, Ph.D., spoke.

Do not precede a name with a courtesy title for an academic degree and follow it with the abbreviation for the degree in the same reference:
Wrong: Dr. Pam Jones, Ph.D.
Right: Dr. Pam Jones, a chemist.

academic departments

Use lowercase except for words that are proper nouns or adjectives: the department of history, the history department, the department of English, the English department. When department is part of the official and formal name: University of Connecticut Department of Medicine.


Use the abbreviations Ave., Blvd. and St. only with a numbered address: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Spell them out and capitalize when part of a formal street name without a number: Pennsylvania Avenue. Lowercase and spell out when used alone or with more than one street name: Massachusetts and Pennsylvania avenues.

All similar words (alley, drive, road, terrace, etc.) always are spelled out. Capitalize them when part of a formal name without a number; lowercase when used alone or with two or more names.

Always use figures for an address number: 9 Morningside Circle.

Spell out and capitalize First through Ninth when used as street names; use figures with two letters for 10th and above: 7 Fifth Ave., 100 21st St.

Abbreviate compass points used to indicate directional ends of a street or quadrants of a city in a numbered address: 222 E. 42nd St., 562 W. 43rd St., 600 K St. N.W. Do not abbreviate if the number is omitted: East 42nd Street, West 43rd Street, K Street Northwest.

alumnus, alumni, alumna, alumnae

Use alumnus (alumni in the plural) when referring to a man who has attended a school.

Use alumna (alumnae in the plural) for similar references to a woman.
Use alumni when referring to a group of men and women.

a.m., p.m.

Lowercase, with periods. Avoid the redundant 10 a.m. this morning.


An event cannot be described as annual until it has been held in at least two successive years.

Do not use the term first annual. Instead, note that sponsors plan to hold an event annually.


Not adviser.

Association of Hole in the Wall Camps

The umbrella organization of the loosely affiliated Hole in the Wall Camps which became Phi Kappa Tau’s national philanthropy by official Convention vote in 1995.

Each camp is a separate entity: Barretstown, Camp Boggy Creek, Double H Ranch, L’Envol, The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, Jordan River Village, The Painted Turtle Camp, The Victory Junction Gang, Over the Wall, The Africa Initiative, Dynamo Camp, Bator Tabor.

Top of Page



Founded in 1994 and located in Ireland, this was the first Hole in the Wall Camp located outside the United States.

Bator Tabor

Located in Hungary and listed as a provisional member as of November 2006.

biannual, biennial

Biannual means twice a year and is a synonym for the word semiannual.

Biennial means every two years.

Board of Governors

Governors is always plural. Abbreviation is BOG and acceptable in all references.


Do not use boldface type for individual words within a paragraph.

Building Men of Character Retreat

On second reference BMC Retreat. Formerly Building Men of Character Weekend.


Do not capitalize.

Brothers Trust

Top of Page


Camp Boggy Creek

Located in Florida. Boggy Creek acceptable upon subsequent reference.


The city where a seat of government is located. Do not capitalize. Different from the building. See capitol.

When used in a financial sense, capital describes money, equipment or property used in a business by a person or corporation.


In general, avoid unnecessary capitals.

EXCEPTIONS: Fraternity, Ritual.

Capitalize College or University when referring to a specific school already referenced by the full name: Alpha chapter at Miami University is hosting a philanthropy event. The University will donate money to Hole in the Wall Camps.


Capitalize U.S. Capitol and the Capitol when referring to the building in Washington: The meeting was held on Capitol Hill in the west wing of the Capitol.

Follow the same practice when referring to state capitols: The Virginia Capitol.


This refers specifically to March 17, 2006 or to the entire centennial year.

Centennial Celebration

This refers to all events occurring in Oxford, Ohio July 20-23, 2006 and not the official Centennial date. It must be referred to as Centennial Celebration until July 2006, but after you may use Centennial standing alone.


Do not capitalize. When referring to a chapter name, capitalize the name and always follow with the lowercase word chapter: Eta chapter.


Greek letter designations are alphabetized as follows: Alpha, Beta, Gamma…Alpha Alpha, Alpha Beta, Alpha Gamma…Beta Alpha, Beta Beta, Beta Gamma…etc.

See Style Guide Appendix Chapters for an alphabetical list and correct school name format.

chapter services

Do not capitalize. Also, chapter services team. Services is always plural.

chief executive officer

Formally Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer. Abbreviation is CEO and acceptable in all references.

chief operating officer

See chief executive officer.


Avoid kids as a universal synonym unless the tone of the story dictates less formal usage.


Some cities stand alone in datelines and body text.

No state with the following:


Stories from all other U.S. cities should have both the city and state name in the dateline, including KANSAS CITY, Mo., and KANSAS CITY, Kan.

coat of arms

Do not capitalize. Do not use crest.


Harvard Red and Old Gold.


Do not use a comma when adding Jr. or Sr. to a person’s name.

Use commas to separate elements in a series, but do not put a comma before the conjunction in a simple series: The flag is red, white and blue. He would nominate Tom, Dick or Harry. You should put a comma before the concluding conjunction in a series if an integral element of the series requires conjunction: I had orange juice, toast, and ham and eggs for breakfast.

Use a comma also before the concluding conjunction in a complex series of phrases: The main points to consider are whether the athletes are skillful enough to compete, whether they have the stamina to endure the training, and whether they have the proper mental attitude.

Use commas to separate a series of adjectives equal in rank. If the commas could be replaced by the word and without changing the sense, the adjectives are equal: a thoughtful, precise manner; a dark, dangerous street.

Use no comma when the last adjective before a noun outranks its predecessors because it is an integral element of a noun phrase, which is the equivalent of a single noun: a cheap fur coat (the noun phrase is fur coat); a new, blue spring bonnet.

A nonessential clause must be set off by commas. An essential clause must not be set off from the rest of a sentence by commas.

A comma is used to separate an introductory clause or phrase from the main clause: When he had tired of the mad pace of New York, he moved to Dubuque. The comma may be omitted after short introductory phrases if no ambiguity would result. During the night he heard many noises. But use the comma if its omission would slow comprehension: On the street below, the curious gathered.

When a conjunction such as and, but or for links two clauses that could stand alone as separate sentences, us a comma before the conjunction in most cases: She was glad she had looked, for a man was approaching the house.

consultant regions

Capitalize the compass direction and lowercase the word region: North region, South region, West region.


Refers specifically to official Convention business that occurs on the Convention floor: elections, voting, etc.

courtesy titles

Refer to both men and women by first and last name: Susan Smith or Robert Smith. Use the courtesy titles Mr., Miss, Ms. or Mrs. only in direct quotations or in letters.

In cases where a person’s gender is not clear from the first name or from the story’s context, indicate the gender by using he or she in subsequent reference.


Do not capitalize.


See coat of arms.

Top of Page


dash (—)

A dash (publishers call it an "em-dash" because it's the width of the letter m) is used to mark a parenthesis — like this — or an interruption. Do not use a dash alongside a comma, a semicolon or a colon.

The dash should be surrounded by spaces; they provide openings for the computer to distribute spacing evenly when justifying the type.

The dash used in a news copy is one em wide. Do not use the shorter en dash (-), except as a minus sign. Avoid dashes in headlines.

The dash is often misused for the comma: Pat – who was badly hurt last year – was pronounced fit today. And it is often overused. A sentence with more than two dashes is confusing because a reader cannot distinguish between the asides and the main narrative.

Dashes properly surround a series punctuated by commas: The governor will face many problems – unemployment, declining revenue and rising costs – in the election year. Here, too, the dash is needed for clarity: The costs – taxes and lawyers’ fees – were higher than expected.

Also use the dash to mark an abrupt change in continuity of expression or an emphatic pause: We will fly to Paris in June – if I get a raise. Smith offered a plan – it was unprecedented – to raise revenues.

See also hyphen.


Always use Arabic figures, without st, nd, rd or th. See months for examples.

daylight-saving time

Not savings. Note the hyphen.

When linking the term with the name of a time zone, use only the word daylight: Eastern Daylight Time, Pacific Daylight Time, etc.

Lowercase daylight-saving time in all uses and daylight time whenever it stands alone.

days of the week

Capitalize them. Do not abbreviate.

dean’s list

Do not capitalize.


See Style Guide Appendix Chapters for an alphabetical list and correct school name format.

Domain Director

Double H Ranch

Located in New York, the double H stands for Health and Healing.

Dynamo Camp

Located in Italy and listed as a provisional member as of November 2006.

Top of Page



Lowercase, with a hyphen. Do not end with a period even if it is the end of a sentence.

Use generic addresses as much as possible: gro.uatappakihp|rotide_lerual#gro.uatappakihp|rotide_lerual, not gro.uatappakihp|driabj#gro.uatappakihp|driabj

Ewing T. Boles Executive Offices

Offices is always plural. Refers only to the physical structure located at 5221 Morning Sun Road, not the Phi Kappa Tau Executive Offices staff.

exclamation point

Avoid use, but if necessary it is meant to express a high degree of surprise, incredulity or other strong emotion.


Place the mark inside quotation marks when it is part of the quoted material: “How wonderful!” he exclaimed. Place the mark outside quotation marks when it is not part of the quoted material: I hated reading Spenser’s “Faerie Queene”!

executive director

See chief executive officer.

Executive Offices

Offices is always plural. Do not use National Headquarters.

Executive Offices staff

Capitalize Executive and Offices but not staff. Also, use Executive Offices staff member. Phi Kappa Tau Executive Offices staff may be used upon first reference if clarification is necessary. Never use Ewing T. Boles Executive Offices staff.

Top of Page



Capitalize when referring to Phi Kappa Tau. Do not capitalize when referring to other fraternities, or fraternities in the general sense of Greek life. Refers to the organization as a whole. Do not use National Fraternity, instead try National Officers or Executive Offices.

Founders Day

full time, full-time

Hyphenate when used as a compound modifier: He works full time. She has a full-time job.

fund raising, fund-raising, fund-raiser

Fund raising is difficult. They planned a fund-raising campaign. A fund-raiser was hired. The organization is planning a fund-raiser.

Top of Page


gender (his, her)

All Phi Kappa Tau members are male. Do not use “their” when referring to one member.

However, when applicable, do not presume maleness in constructing a sentence, but use the pronoun his when an indefinite antecedent may be male or female. A reporter attempts to protect his sources.(Not his or her sources, but note the use of the word reporter rather than newsman.)

Frequently, however, the best choice is a slight revision of the sentence: Reporters attempt to protect their sources.

graduate (v.)

Graduate is correctly used in the active voice: She graduated from the university. It is correct, but unnecessary, to use the passive voice: He was graduated from the university. Do not, however, drop from: John Adams graduated from Harvard. Not: John Adams graduated Harvard.

Graduate Council


Lowercase when referring to fraternal organizations. The greek community aided in the relief effort.

Top of Page


historic, historical

A historic event is an important occurrence, one that stands out in history. Any occurrence in the past is a historical event.

home page

Two words.


One word. Use a comma to set off an individual's hometown when it is placed in apposition to a name, whether of is used or not: Tim Johnson, of Vermillion, S.D.; Mary Richards, Minneapolis.

hyphen (-)

Hyphens are joiners. Use them to avoid ambiguity or to form a single idea from two or more words. He recovered his health. He re-covered the leaky roof.

A compound noun used as an adjective is often hyphenated: a well-known man, the man is well-known.


Avoid duplicated vowels and tripled consonants: anti-intellectual, pre-empt, shell-like.

Hole in the Wall Camps

Changed from Hole in the Wall Gang Camps.

Top of Page


initiation year

Takes a close quotation mark: ’83.


Use italics for book titles and foreign words.


Top of Page


junior, senior

Abbreviate as Jr. and Sr. only with full names of persons or animals. Do not precede by a comma: Joseph P. Kennedy Jr.

Jordan River Village

Located in Israel, this camp serves the Middle East.

Top of Page


keynote address Also: keynote speech.


Avoid kids as a universal synonym unless the tone of the story dictates less formal usage. Use children.

Top of Page



See The Laurel.


Located in France, this camp was founded in 1997.

Leadership Academy

On second reference use Academy, preferably with the year. Do not abbreviate as L.A.

leadership consultants


“The Link” is the only acceptable wording for the website name.

long distance, long-distance

Always a hyphen in reference to telephone calls: We keep in touch by long-distance. He called long-distance. She took the long-distance call.

In other uses, hyphenate only when used as a compound modifier: She traveled a long distance. She made a long-distance trip.

long term, long-term

Hyphenate when used as a compound modifier: We will win in the long term. He has a long-term assignment.

Top of Page



Do not capitalize. When the mission is written out, there are no quotation marks. When written alone, capitalize the first letter: To champion… When written in body text, lowercase the first letter: The mission of Phi Kappa Tau is to champion….


Capitalize the names of months in all uses. When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. Spell out when using alone or with a year alone.

When a phrase lists only a month and a year, do not separate the year with commas. When a phrase refers to a month, day and year, set off the year with commas. January 1972 was a cold month. Jan. 2 was the coldest day of the month. His birthday is May 8. Feb. 14, 1987, was the target date.

Top of Page


National Council

National Fraternity

Do not use. See Fraternity.


Spell out whole numbers below 10; use figures for 10 and above.
Round numbers like two hundred, one thousand, etc. Exceptionally large numbers should also be spelled out.

Recast sentences that begin with numbers.

Spell out ordinal numbers through ninth. Use “nd” and “rd” to abbreviate when necessary: The 22nd annual banquet is Friday. Do not use superscript.


Any dollar amounts are used in symbolic form, with the dollar-sign ($) unless it is an abstract, conversational or passing thought. The price of a gallon of gas is coming close to two dollars. Currently, the price of regular unleaded gas is $1.49 per gallon.


Express dates in words if the date is inexact or if the exact date is irrelevant: The applications are due on the first of the month.

Top of Page


OK, OK’d, OK’ing, OKs

Do not use okay.

one time, one-time

He did it one time. She is a one-time friend.


One word.

operational initiatives

Do not capitalize. Support the five statements of action in the Fraternity’s strategic plan.

Over the Wall

Located in North Dorset, England.

Top of Page


parents fund

passive voice

Avoid. The active voice takes the form of "A does B"; the passive takes the form of "B is done [by A]."

The real question is whether the subject of the sentence is doing anything, or having something done to it. I have been giving is active, while I have been given is passive.

There are two problems with the passive voice. The first is that sentences often become dense and clumsy when they're filled with passive constructions. The more serious danger of the passive voice, though, is that it lets the writer shirk the responsibility of providing a subject for the verb.


One word. It takes a singular verb when standing alone or when a singular word follows an of construction: The teacher said 60 percent was a failing grade. He said 50 percent of the membership was present. It takes a plural verb when a plural word follows an of construction: He said 50 percent of the members were present.

Phi Kappa Tau

Use the full name on first reference, Phi Tau on second reference if you choose. Use PKT very rarely, if ever.


is an informal logo created by typing FKT in Symbol font.


Avoid the redundant future planning.


Use it to mean in a little while or shortly but not to mean now.

Not preventative.


Never abbreviate. Lowercase before a name. Do not continue in second reference unless part of a quotation.

Top of Page


Resident Council


roll call (n.) roll-call (adj.)

room numbers

Use figures and capitalize room when used with a figure: Room 2, Room 211.

Top of Page



Lowercase unless part of a formal name: spring, summer, fall, winter but Summer Sing Fest.


Twice a year, a synonym for biannual.

Do not confuse it with biennial, which means every two years.


A 150-year period.

state names

Follow these guidelines:


Spell out the names of the 50 U.S. states when they stand alone in textual material.


The names of eight states are never abbreviated: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah.


Use the state abbreviations listed at the end of this section in conjunction with the name of a city, town, village or military base in text. Postal abbreviations in parentheses should be used only with full addresses, including ZIP code.

Ala. (AL) Alabama
Ariz. (AZ) Arizona
Ark. (AR) Arkansas
Calif. (CA) California
Colo. (CO) Colorado
Conn. (CT) Connecticut
Del. (DE) Delaware
Fla. (FL) Florida
Ga. (GA) Georgia
Ill. (IL) Illinois
Ind. (IN) Indiana
Kan. (KS) Kansas
Ky. (KY) Kentucky
La. (LA) Louisiana
Md. (MD) Maryland
Mass. (MA) Massachusetts
Mich. (MI) Michigan
Minn. (MN) Minnesota
Miss. (MS) Mississippi
Mo. (MO) Missouri
Mont. (MT) Montana
Neb. (NE) Nebraska
Nev. (NV) Nevada
N.H. (NH) New Hampshire
N.J. (NJ) New Jersey
N.Y. (NY) New York
N.C. (NC) North Carolina
N.D. (ND) North Dakota
Okla. (OK) Oklahoma
Ore. (OR) Oregon
Pa. (PA) Pennsylvania
R.I. (RI) Rhode Island
S.C. (SC) South Carolina
S.D. (SD) South Dakota
Tenn. (TN) Tennessee
Vt. (VT) Vermont
Va. (VA) Virginia
Wash. (WA) Washington
W.Va. (WV) West Virginia
Wis. (WI) Wisconsin
Wyo. (WY) Wyoming


Place one comma between the city and the state name and another comma after the state name, unless ending a sentence or indicating a dateline: He was traveling from Nashville, Tenn., to Austin, Texas, en route to his home in Albuquerque, N.M.


Use New York state when necessary to distinguish the state from New York City. Use state of Washington or Washington state when necessary to distinguish the state from the District of Columbia. (Washington State is the name of a university.)

Some cities stand alone in datelines and body text. See cities.

statements of action

Do not capitalize. They are alignment, recruitment, service, education and leadership.

strategic objectives

  1. Building men of character
  2. Building strong chapters
  3. Building lifelong relationships.

strategic plan

Do not capitalize. Began in 2006 in consideration of new direction for the Fraternity in its second century. Consists of five statements of action and operational initiatives to support each statement.


Do not use with ordinals: The 22nd annual banquet is Friday.

Top of Page


telephone numbers

Use figures. The forms: (212) 621-1500, 621-1500, MU2-1500. The parentheses around the area code are based on a format that telephone companies have agreed upon for domestic and international communications. For international numbers, use the parentheses around the country code and the city code (where required): (44-20) 7353-1515. Use hyphens, not periods.

The form for toll-free numbers: (800) 111-1000.

If extension numbers are given: ext. 2, ext. 364, ext. 4071. Use a comma to separate the main number from the extension.

The Africa Initiative

The explicit role of the Association with these programs is as catalyst, provider of technical assistance, camp program development, and (in some cases) provider of seed funding. The Association's goal for these projects is to build community capacity and thereby help create self-sufficient programs. The Africa Initiative began as a pilot program in Botswana's Okavango Delta in December 2001.

The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp

Located in northeast Connecticut and founded by actor and philanthropist Paul Newman in 1988 as the first camp for chronically ill children.

The Laurel

The only acceptable wording for the publication name.

The Link

The only acceptable wording for the publication name.

The Painted Turtle

Located in southern California (north of L.A.) and founded in 1999 as the sixth Hole in the Wall Camp. Painted Turtle acceptable upon subsequent reference.

The Victory Junction Gang

Located in North Carolina and founded in 2004 by Kyle and Pattie Petty in honor of their son, NASCAR driver Adam. Victory Junction acceptable reference.

time of day

There is no need to specify which time zone in most cases. If you feel compelled and the case is nationwide, use EST or EDT.


In general, confine capitalization to formal titles used directly before an individual’s name. This applies to all fraternity staff and volunteer titles.


Lowercase and spell out titles when they are not used with an individual’s name: The president issued a statement. The pope gave his blessing. Lowercase and spell out titles in constructions that set them off from a name by commas: The vice president, Nelson Rockefeller, declined to run again. Paul VI, the current pope, does not plan to retire.


Capitalize formal titles when they are used immediately before one or more names: Pope Paul, President Washington, Vice Presidents John Jones and William Smith. A formal title generally is one that denotes a scope of authority, professional activity or academic activity: President George W. Bush, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Dr. Marcus Welby, Pvt. Gomer Pyle.

Other titles serve primarily as occupational descriptions: astronaut John Glenn, movie star John Wayne.

A final determination on whether a title is formal or occupational depends on the practice of the governmental or private organization that confers it. If there is doubt about the status of a title and the practice of the organization cannot be determined, use a construction that sets the name or the title off with commas.


Not towards.

Top of Page


Use subdirectory home pages when appropriate: Use all lowercase and do not end with a period even if it is the end of a sentence. When the URL does not fit entirely on one line, break it into two or more lines without adding a hyphen or other punctuation mark.


It means one of a kind. Do not describe something as rather unique or most unique.


Not utilize.

Top of Page



Do not capitalize. When the vision is written out, there are no quotation marks. When written alone, capitalize the first letter: To be recognized… When written in body text, lowercase the first letter: The vision of Phi Kappa Tau is to be recognized….

Top of Page


++wasted words
Many words and phrases rarely add anything to a sentence. Avoid these whenever you can. A very short list of some of these offenders: quite, very, extremely, as it were, moreover, it can be seen that, it has been indicated that, basically, essentially, totally, completely, therefore, it should be remembered that, it should be noted that, thus, it is imperative that, at the present moment in time.


One word, do not capitalize.


Do not capitalize.


One word as an adjective; an exception to Webster’s.

Top of Page


year-end (adj.)


One word.

Top of Page


Top of Page

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License

SSL configuration warning

This site has been configured to use only SSL (HTTPS) secure connection. SSL is available only for Pro+ premium accounts.

If you are the master administrator of this site, please either upgrade your account to enable secure access. You can also disable SSL access in the Site Manager for this site.