Editorial Style Guide

University Communications monitors all Old Dominion University publications and advertisements to insure they project a consistent editorial and graphic identity that upholds a dignified image of the University.

Editorial guidelines assist anyone who prepares communications for and about the University. A style guide simplifies the guesswork when preparing copy for publication, and a consistent style projects a more professional image of Old Dominion University.

For questions or further information, contact University Communication at (757) 683-3114.

Use "Old Dominion University" on first reference and in a prominent place in the publication. "Old Dominion" or "the University" is acceptable in subsequent references. Limited use of "ODU" is permitted.

(second reference in parentheses)

  • Batten College of Engineering and Technology (Batten College or College of Engineering)
  • College of Arts and Letters (Arts and Letters)
  • College of Health Sciences
  • College of Sciences
  • Darden College of Education and Professional Studies (Darden College)
  • Graduate School
  • Perry Honors College (Perry Honors College)
  • Strome College of Business (Strome College)
  • School of Cybersecurity
  • School of Data Science
  • School of Nursing
  • School of Supply Chain, Logistics & Maritime Operations

Old Dominion's mission statement has several important goals that can be included when describing the University. The text does not need to be included in its entirety.

  • The University, from its main campus in Norfolk, is Virginia's forward-focused public doctoral research university with 23,000 students, rigorous academics, an energetic residential community and initiatives that contribute $2.6 billion annually to Virginia's economy.
  • The institution serves its students and enriches the commonwealth of Virginia, the nation and the world through its rigorous academic programs, strategic partnerships and active civic engagement.

(From Old Dominion's vision statement):

  • Recognized nationally and internationally as a forward-focused metropolitan university;
  • Embraces a collaborative and innovative approach to academics and research;
  • Focuses on student success, engages civic and community partners, and connects with the military,
    maritime industries and other economic partners to provide practical solutions to complex, real-world

Old Dominion University's main campus in Norfolk, Virginia, is in the Hampton Roads region of Coastal Virginia, a community with a population of more than 1.7 million residents and located in the southeast corner of the state.

The University operates regional higher education centers in the cities of Virginia Beach, Portsmouth (Tri-Cities) and Hampton (Peninsula). It reaches students across the world through ODUGlobal, the University’s online distance learning network.

Old Dominion's 335-acre campus is bounded on two sides by the Elizabeth and Lafayette rivers. The northern section of the campus is the oldest. It contains shaded brick walkways, stately buildings and the University's newly renovated football stadium and complex. To the south, the campus features newer academic buildings, residence halls and student support facilities, including the new Chemistry Building and Hugo A. Owens House, ODU's newest residence hall.

To the west, Whitehurst residence hall and the sailing center sit along the Elizabeth River waterfront, with a front-row seat to spectacular sunsets and a passing parade of maritime activity.

On the east side of campus is University Village, a 75-acre area anchored by Chartway Arena. The Village is home to the University's fine arts district, with the Barry Art Museum and Gordon Art Galleries, theaters, Brock Commons amphitheater, art history library and art studios. The Village also houses the College of Health Sciences, classrooms, student apartments, a research park, the Mitchum Basketball Performance Center, the University Village Bookstore, shops and restaurants, parking garages and a hotel.

Leo Online — two words
MIDAS - Monarch Identification and Authorization System
Monarch Orientation - formerly Preview
Norfolk Division of the College of William & Mary - ODU's founding name in 1930

  • The Norfolk Division of William & Mary (* William & Mary uses the ampersand)
  • the Norfolk Division; the division

ODUGlobal -- ODU's distance learning program, formerly called Teletechnet and ODUOnline.
Chartway Arena is the home of Monarch basketball. Formerly known as the Ted Constant Convocation Center, students often call it by its nickname, "The Ted."

On Style

When the title precedes the name of the person, it is uppercase.

  • President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., was unanimously chosen in 2021 by the Board of Visitors.
  • His family includes First Lady Marisela Rosas Hemphill, Ph.D., and their two children.
  • Professor Michelle Kelly was elected Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science.

Lowercase titles that follow a name. Eminent Scholar is capitalized regardless of where it is placed in a

  • Brian Hemphill is Old Dominion University's ninth president.
  • Shaomin Li is an Eminent Scholar and professor of management.

Use acronyms and abbreviations after the formal name has been mentioned. If a program is named only once in text, do not add its acronym in parentheses.

  • Student Enrollment, Engagement & Services (SEES)
  • Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography (CCPO)
  • Information Technology Services (ITS)
  • Engineering Systems Building (ESB)
  • Graduate Program in International Studies (GPIS)

ODU's capitalization style calls for less, rather than more, when it comes to the use of uppercase. When possible, rearrange elements to use lowercase. This increases readability for your audience.

Departments & Offices

Lowercase unless it is part of an official name.

  • The political science department, the art department, admissions office
  • Old Dominion University Department of Physics; Career Development Services


Capitalize "University" when referring to Old Dominion University, specifically, but not when referring to universities in general.

  • Old Dominion University is Virginia's entrepreneurial-minded public research institution. Located in Norfolk, Virginia, the University is situated on 335 acres and bound on two sides by the Elizabeth and Lafayette rivers.
  • The University today petitioned the General Assembly for additional state funding.
  • If you want a university that embraces a multicultural student body and faculty, Old Dominion is the place for you.

Faculty are identified by their names and academic rankings on the first reference. Use their surnames on subsequent references. Use the guide below when it's necessary to specify their degrees.

If listing a person's degree, use their highest degree or professional designation. Limit the list to three
credentials; any more hampers readability.

  • Karen A. Karlowicz, Ed.D., RN

The type of degree is sufficient without adding the word "degree."

  • She earned her Ph.D. in English this fall.
  • He was the first to earn a Bachelor of Science in cybersecurity.

Degree programs are not capitalized within text unless the program is a proper noun.

  • Samantha Salvia, Old Dominion's first Rhodes Scholar, is a 1996 graduate in civil and
    environmental engineering.
  • Old Dominion offers bachelor's degrees in African American and Asian studies.

Lowercase, including the major area of study.

  • She has a bachelor's degree in modeling and simulation. (preferred)
  • Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Arts. May use capitalized BA or BS or B.A. or B.S., as long as it is consistent throughout the text.

Lowercase, including the major area of study.

  • He earned a master's degree in physics. (preferred)
  • Master of Science in chemistry or Master of Arts in history. May use MS and MA, or M.S. and M.A., as long as they are used consistently in the text.

Doctoral degrees

  • Berhanu Mengistu, a professor of public service in the Strome College of Business, received his doctorate from the University of Delaware. (preferred)
  • In a list: Holly Gaff, Ph.D., and Karen Sanzo, Ed.D.
  • Following Associated Press style, the title "Dr." is used only for medical doctors, dentists or veterinarians.
  • However, after introducing the faculty member, as a courtesy, they may be acknowledged as "Dr." once on second reference. This is an exception to Associated Press style.
  • Doctorate is the noun; doctoral is an adjective
  • Professor Sylvain Marsillac holds a doctorate in materials science and engineering;
    he earned a doctoral degree from the University of Nantes in France.

Lowercase, not possessive.

  • She earned an associate degree before transferring to ODU to complete an undergraduate
    degree in history.

Spell out whole numbers below 10; use figures for 10 and above. Use the same rule for ordinals. Ages
are always numbers, even less than 10.

  • There are five starters on a basketball team; 11 per side for football teams.
  • First Amendment; 26th Amendment gave 18-year-olds the right to vote in federal elections.

Midnight, not 12 a.m. (reduces confusion)
Noon, not 12 p.m. (less confusing)
9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; 1 to 4 p.m.
The fall semester begins Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021.

Frequently Asked Questions

"Advisor" may be used for internal/academic references to describe an academic counselor (an exception to the Associated Press Stylebook).

  • Use "adviser" for an external audience.

The ODU Office of Educational Accessibility: The wording expresses our intent to assist those with disabilities in getting an education.

A male graduate is an alumnus; if it's a group of males or mixed genders, use alumni (i.e., plural). A female graduate is an alumna; a gathering of a group of females - a sorority, for example - would be alumnae.

Uppercase when referring to specific courses: CHEM 117, Foundations of Chemistry.

Virginia is one of four U.S. commonwealths, but limit "commonwealth" to formal statements.
Otherwise, use "state."

  • The Commonwealth of Virginia filed suit in October 2016, seeking civil penalties...
  • Old Dominion has a reputation as one of the most military-friendly universities in the state.

Generally combined as one word, no hyphen.

  • Cyberspace, cyberattack, cybersecurity majors at ODU, cyberbullying, cybercafe

    • Exceptions: Cyber Monday, cyber systems security, cyber specialist

"T" not "c": dietitian

No hyphen

In text, it would be lowercase: e-magazine.

Old Dominion University avoids words that contain discriminatory connotations. Use these suggested alternatives:

  • best candidate rather than best man for the job
  • chair, chairperson, departmental chair instead of chairman
  • artisan, designer rather than craftsman 
  • international student instead of foreigner
  • supervisor instead of foreman
  • staffed the booth rather than manned the booth 
  • synthetic instead of man-made 

The term "Latinx" has emerged in academia as a popular way to refer to those whose ancestors came
from a Spanish-speaking land or culture or a Latin American country.

  • Latino is appropriate for all-male groups; Latinos is plural. Latina designates a group of females;
    Latinas, if plural.
  • Hispanic designates a person from - or whose ancestors were from - a Spanish-speaking land
    or culture. It is also generally acceptable for those in the U.S. Be specific when possible, such as
    Cuban, Puerto Rican, Brazilian or Mexican American.

National anthem (lowercase)
The song is "The Star-Spangled Banner."

"Something in the Water" is an outdoor festival held at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront.

The symbol is permitted in text as well as statistical and tabular data.

  • ODU awards $200 million in financial aid each year; 67% of its undergraduates receive
    financial assistance.

Pre-K, grades K-12, preschool students

In June 2020, the Associated Press and many other media organizations reset their style to capitalize
Black and Indigenous in a racial, ethnic or cultural sense, conveying a shared sense of history, identity
and community among people.

A few guidelines:

  • Black is generally used as an adjective: Black literature, Black culture, Black studies
  • White remains lowercase.
  • African American is an alternative for a Black person in the U.S. from Africa or in the African
    diaspora. It is not always interchangeable. Many cultures that have settled in the United States
    proudly identify their dual heritage, such as Somali Americans or Caribbean Americans. Be
  • Native Americans or American Indians are acceptable general references in the U.S. when
    referring to two or more Indigenous tribes. When possible, refer to them as citizens from their
    specific tribal affiliation.
  • In Alaska, the Indigenous groups are collectively known as Alaska Natives.

To take a gender-neutral position and avoid the irritating "s/he" construction, the Associated Press in
2017 allowed the use of a "singular they" as a singular pronoun in limited cases. AP still prefers
rewording whenever possible. Another option is to directly address the student ("you") or use plural

  • If an applicant writes poorly, they likely will not be hired for the job.
  • Students must speak with their faculty advisors to drop courses after the deadline.
  • You must inform the professor that you dropped the class.

Spell out state names. Use the U.S. Postal Service two-letter abbreviations in complete mailing
addresses, seen on department brochures, for example.

Preferred spelling is "theater"; however, ODU uses "theatre" in several cases:
ODU Department of Communication and Theatre Arts
Old Dominion University Theatre, Goode Theatre ... but it's Stables Theater

Books that are not reference books are set off with quotation marks. Magazines, newspapers, journals
and reference books -- no italics or quotation marks. Radio and TV shows are put inside quotation

  • "A Mathematical Nature Walk" by John Adam, a math professor and photographer
  • Time magazine, The New York Times
  • "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" on NPR
  • "Car Talk" on NPR
  • MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers

One word in all uses.

  • Construction for the Hugo A. Owens House, ODU's newest residence hall, is underway.
  • Sailors deployed on a ship can study for a degree while underway through ODUGlobal.

United Nations (with periods) when used as a noun or adjective; UN in headline.

 (one word)

One word, lowercase: website, webcam, webcast, webpage

Uppercase. Stands for Zone Improvement Plan.