Consistency of style is a hallmark of professionalism and the sign of a unified organization. This guide will help all communicators at The University of Texas at Austin be consistent in matters such as punctuation, capitalization and how we refer to ourselves and our many components.

We use Associated Press style as our base but have a number important exceptions to it. This page is designed to be a quick reference for writers needing a reminder about a particular topic, but if this is your first time here, reading all the way through it will be a useful way of learning about many aspects of university communications you may have never considered.

For questions not addressed on this page, you may contact Avrel Seale in University Marketing and Communications at avrel@utexas.edu.

AP Style

The Associated Press Stylebook is the university’s primary style guide because much of our writing is intended for external readers — prospective students and their parents, donors and prospective donors, government officials, business leaders, news reporters and editors, and the public at large. This section includes common elements of AP style.

Punctuation

  • Use one space after a period.
  • Don’t use a serial (Oxford) comma for simple lists, e.g., red, white and blue. If it is a complex list or if it helps with clarity, use a serial comma. Clarity is the paramount consideration.
  • Use spaces around em dashes. (AP style does not use en dashes.)
  • Use quotation marks around titles of books, museum exhibits, movies, plays, poems, albums, songs, works of art, radio and TV shows, podcasts and videos. Capitalize the initial letters of magazine and newspaper names but do not place them in quotation marks.
  • In bulleted lists, capitalize the first letter in the bulleted item and use a period at the end of each item regardless of whether it is a complete sentence. Do not use commas or semicolons at the end of bulleted items. Use parallel construction for each item in a list.
  • Treat an ellipsis as a three-letter word consisting of three periods with no spaces in between. Spaces should be inserted only before or after the ellipsis as necessary to separate it from other words.
  • Use Capitalize My Title to see which words get capitalized in a given headline. (The algorithm for this website does have its limits. Check to see if it’s making sense.)

Numbers, Dates, Addresses and Abbreviations

  • Use numerals used for numbers greater than nine. Include commas for larger numbers: 1,000; $500,000; $5 million.
  • Note time and date style: 7 a.m., 7:30 p.m., Noon-4 p.m. (Use hyphens, not en dashes.) June 20 (not 20th).
  • Use the address abbreviations Ave., Blvd. and St. with numbered addresses only, e.g., “My address is 1000 Michigan Ave.” Spell out and capitalize “First” through “Ninth” when they are used as street names. For streets higher than nine, use figures with two letters.
  • Except in an address, do not use postal abbreviations, such as TX. In stories, AP spells out all state names.
  • When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. All other months should always be completely spelled out. Also, all months should be spelled out when they stand alone or are alone with a year, with no comma, e.g., “UT has been doing this since January 2022.”

Degrees

We follow AP style for degrees and specialties. Use periods in degrees, e.g., B.A. and Ph.D. Degree abbreviations with more than two letters (other than Ph.D.) do not get periods, e.g., MBA, BBA, MSTC, MFA. Formal degree names (Master of Science, Bachelor of Fine Arts) are capped and not possessive, but degree specialty/major is not capped:

Correct: The Cockrell School offers a Master of Science in engineering management.
Correct: The Cockrell School offers a master’s in engineering management.
Correct: The Cockrell School offers a master’s in practically any type of engineering you can think of.
Correct: The Cockrell School offers numerous master’s degrees.

Using full years in conjunction with degrees is preferable. After all, we have now awarded degrees in three different centuries. “He’s part of the Class of 2021.” Using the final two digits of a year is acceptable in some cases, but be sure the apostrophe points down and to the left, e.g., Class of ’28, B.A. ’28.

Titles

Capitalize formal titles (those that indicate authority) used immediately before a name and not set off by commas: President Jay Hartzell, UT President Jay Hartzell, but “UT’s president, Jay Hartzell.” When titles are long, it often helps readability to use them after a name, set off by commas, e.g.,  “Sharon L. Wood, UT’s executive vice president and provost, …”

Use lower case for titles that are set off by commas, titles not used with a name, and titles that refer to occupation. AP views “professor” as an occupation instead of a title, therefore it’s professor Lopez, associate professor Gwen Lopez, assistant professor Gwen Lopez. Exceptions to this rule occur when “professor” is paired with an honorific modifier, such as Professor Emeritus Joshua Ball, Regents Professor Natalia Mbewe or Distinguished Teaching Professor Kevin Cokley. Endowed professorships should be capitalized all the way through, e.g., “He is the Robert Elliott Professor of Dance.”

The above rules apply to in-line copy. In tabulated or non-copy use, such as in a program or on a name tag, titles such as Assistant Professor would be capitalized.


University Name and Brand Language

What We Call Ourselves

The university’s full legal name (since 1967) is The University of Texas at Austin. Use our full name on first reference in almost all cases.

In subsequent uses, use:

  • the university. (Note this is not capitalized. This is a change for some offices.)
  • UT (when it will not be confused with the UT System).
  • Texas (when unlikely to be confused with the state, and often with the construction “at Texas”).
  • And, sparingly, UT Austin (no hyphen), especially to distinguish from other UT System universities. When writing for internal audiences familiar with the university, it is acceptable to refer to the university as UT Austin.)

Tagline, Motto, Core Purpose and Mission

UT’s tagline or slogan is “What starts here changes the world.” When used in copy, treat it like any other sentence. Do not use italics, boldface, all caps, exclamation points or any other embellishment. Do not call it a motto. (See below.)

When used outside of copy, standing alone, it either can be styled in all caps, if that makes sense graphically, or in title case with no period: What Starts Here Changes the World

“What starts here changes the world” is not UT’s motto. UT’s motto, approved by the Board of Regents in 1905, is “Disciplina Praesidium Civitatis.” This is known as a terse Latin rendering of a favored saying of President Mirabeau B. Lamar: “Cultivated mind is the guardian genius of democracy.”

UT’s Core Purpose

“To transform lives for the benefit of society”

UT’s Mission

“The mission of The University of Texas at Austin is to achieve excellence in the interrelated areas of undergraduate education, graduate education, research and public service. The university provides superior and comprehensive educational opportunities at the baccalaureate through doctoral and special professional educational levels.

“The university contributes to the advancement of society through research, creative activity, scholarly inquiry and the development and dissemination of new knowledge, including the commercialization of university discoveries. The university preserves and promotes the arts, benefits the state’s economy, serves the citizens through public programs and provides other public service.”

Spirit Style

  • Longhorn Nation (capitalized), not “the Longhorn Nation.”
  • Longhorn if it’s UT-specific, but longhorn for the cattle breed.
  • Hook ’em! (note space after Hook and apostrophe direction).
  • Hook ’em Horns! (no comma).
  • Costumed mascot: Hook ’Em; Live mascot: Bevo.

What Starts Here Campaign

The university is currently in the public phase of the What Starts Here campaign, the most ambitious fundraising effort in Texas history. See the campaign toolkit for complete editorial and design guidelines and the campaign brand book. For quick reference:

  • The campaign name: What Starts Here, or the What Starts Here campaign (note capitalization). Do not italicize.
  • The campaign tagline: “What starts here starts with you.” Also acceptable: “What starts here changes the world. What starts here starts with you.”


Academic and Campus Style

Avoid using the inaccurate term “capital campaign.” “Comprehensive fundraising campaign” is both accurate and self-explanatory. 

Disciplines, Majors, Colleges and Schools

Disciplines should be lowercase, e.g., “She teaches history.” Likewise, majors should be lowercase: “She is an electrical and computer engineering senior.”

On first reference, use the full college or school name. On second reference, you can refer to a college, school, unit, department or office with shorthand for brevity by capitalizing it if what you are writing is clear from context: “She has appointments in Liberal Arts, Fine Arts and Engineering.” Use the same convention for departments. Confirm a college or school’s preferred shorthand, e.g., Texas Law, Cockrell School.

Do not use the abbreviation “CSU” in any public-facing communication.

If you are using the proper name of a school, do not drop the donor’s name. Correct: the McCombs School of Business, McCombs School, Texas McCombs, McCombs; likewise, Moody College of Communication, Moody College, Moody; Dell Medical School, Dell Med; The Steve Hicks School of Social Work. The Butler School.

These are the formal names of UT’s 18 schools and colleges. Note that of the seven schools that are named, only two include the first name of the honoree: the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and the Steve Hicks School of Social Work. These should not be shortened to “the Johnson School” or “the Hicks School.” Conversely, first names should not be added to school names if they do not appear in the list below, such as the Red McCombs School or the Michael Dell Medical School.

Cockrell School of Engineering
College of Education
College of Fine Arts
College of Liberal Arts
College of Natural Sciences
College of Pharmacy
Dell Medical School
Graduate School
Jackson School of Geosciences
Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, LBJ School of Public Affairs is also acceptable on first reference.
McCombs School of Business
Moody College of Communication
School of Architecture
School of Information
School of Law
School of Nursing
Steve Hicks School of Social Work
School of Undergraduate Studies

Beware of common mistakes: It’s the College of Natural Sciences (plural) but the Moody College of Communication (singular).

Campus and Buildings

Forty Acres (not 40, despite AP style on numbers). Capitalize Tower when referring to UT’s Main Building. Use “UT Tower” if externally facing or ambiguous. Main Building. Main Mall (plaza in front of the Main Building), South Mall (grassy area south of Inner Campus Drive), West Mall, East Mall.

Use J.J. Pickle Research Campus on first reference so it does not sound like a place where we do research on pickles. Also, beware not to call it the J.J. Pickle Research Center, which was its name years ago.

Courses, Semesters and Academic Events

Use quotation marks around the names of courses.

Capitalize specific semesters, as in “Fall 2022 semester” or “Spring 2023.” When not attached to a year, “fall” and “spring” should be lower case even if referring to a semester, as in, “The fall semester will begin with a bang.”

Lowercase “commencement” when used as a common noun. “We’re looking forward to commencement.” Uppercase when referring to a specific ceremony: Winter Commencement, UT’s 145th Spring Commencement.

Alumni Matters

An alumnus is anyone who attended a given school; they need not have earned a degree to be an alumnus. These terms are Latin:

  • Alumnus: Singular, general or male.
  • Alumna: Singular, female.
  • Alumni: Plural, general or males. The cringiest mistake in higher education writing is to call someone “an alumni.” The word “alumni” is always plural.
  • Alumnae: Plural, females.
  • Alum: Avoid in most cases.

“Texas Ex” and “Texas Exes” are acceptable terms for alumni of UT Austin on second reference, bearing in mind the audience. UT’s alumni association is the Texas Exes. Correct: “… the Texas Exes alumni association …” or “the Texas Exes, UT’s alumni association, is sponsoring …”

The title Distinguished Alumnus is capitalized only if referring to a recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award.

Athletics Style

Use the term “student-athlete,” which is hyphenated.

The names Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium and DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium are both acceptable on first reference. When using the full name do not place a period after the K. (Coach Royal had a middle initial but not a middle name. His middle initial was in honor of his mother, Katy, who died when Darrell was an infant.)

UT System Communications

Communication with or on behalf of the UT System should adhere to the UT System’s own guidelines.