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NDSU Agriculture Communication Style Guide for News Releases and Publications

December 2006

In general, Ag Communication uses the “Associated Press Stylebook” to provide consistent, clear communication through the media and to the public.

News releases and publications are for targeted audiences in the public and are written much differently than journal articles, columns, scientific papers and other materials written by Agriculture and University Extension faculty and staff.

This style guide clarifies some AP styles that are often used (and misused) and communicates some styles specifically determined for NDSU Agriculture and University Extension.

A/an – Use a before words beginning with a consonant sound (a historic place) or words that sound as though they begin with a w or u (a one-year term, a united stand). Use an before words and numbers starting with vowel sounds (an honorable man, an NDSU student, an 1890s celebration).

Adviser – Use adviser, not advisor. Even the American Society of Agronomy's Certified Crop Adviser Program is spelled this way.

Board of Higher Education – Capitalize when using as a proper name for the governmental agency. Everyone is waiting for a decision from the state Board of Higher Education. Lowercase in references to the board. No one knows why the board made the change.

Chair/head – A department chair is elected from among the faculty. A department head is appointed to the position after a search.

College of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Natural Resources – Note that a comma is used after Food Systems.

Comma – Use commas to separate elements in a series, but do not put a comma before the conjunction in a simple series. That producer raises wheat, barley, canola and lentils. Put a comma before the concluding conjunction in a series, however, if an integral element of the series requires a conjunction and in a complex series of phrases. I had orange juice, toast, and ham and eggs for breakfast. Use a comma in numerals great than 1,000. The weed produces more than 7,000 seeds.

Crops – Use plurals of words such as sugar beets, oats, sunflowers and soybeans when writing for a general audience. He grows 100 acres of soybeans. Use the singular form in documents targeted for a scientific journal or similar publication that asks for that style in its own style guidelines.

Dates – Abbreviate months when used with a date. The battle ended Aug. 4, 1892. The meeting will be Oct. 6. Do not abbreviate months when they stand alone or just with a year. December was a very good month. She returned in September 1999. Do not abbreviate March, April, May, June or July under any circumstances.

Department names – Uppercase department names. Ag Communication’s style is an exception to AP style to clarify official department names. “It’s a matter of timing,” said Becky Koch, Agriculture Communication director. Schneiter is chair of NDSU’s Department of Plant Sciences. McMullen is in Plant Pathology.

Dr. – Use only for individuals who hold a doctor of medicine degree. Ph.D. degrees do not meet this requirement. (See Ph.D. below.)

e-mail – Hyphenated and no capital e unless it is the first word of a sentence.

Experiment Station – Capitalize in all uses when it refers to a specific organization, the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station. The Experiment Station received funding for greenhouses.

Extension – Capitalize in all uses when it refers to a specific organization, the NDSU Extension Service, for instance. NDSU Extension Service publications are available. Schwartz has been with the NDSU Extension Service for 26 years. They’ve used Extension material in the past. According to NDSU Extension food and nutrition specialists, .... They view county Extension agents as valuable resources.

4-H’er – Capitalize H and use apostrophe to show the rest of the word “member” is missing. Use the numeral 4 rather than the word four, even at the beginning of a sentence.

fax – Lowercase all letters since it is considered a word, not an acronym.

Hyphen – In general, use a hyphen when a compound modifier – two or more words that express a single concept – precedes a noun except the adverb very and all adverbs that end in –ly. Whole-grain foods are recommended for more fiber. Canola is grown in the north-central region of the U.S. Establish a three- to five-year management program.

Internet – Capitalize the word. The Internet is the network that makes the Web and e-mail possible. The three words are not interchangeable.

Land-grant – Hyphenate when used as an adjective. North Dakota State University is a land-grant university. The National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges meeting is in February.

Numerals – In general, spell out whole numbers below 10, and use figures for 10 and above. However, numerals are used for many measurements. The new state fleet car gets 4 miles more per gallon. This is a 3-credit class.

Ph.D. – Use when necessary to specify the type of degree someone holds, such as when listing authors of Extension publications. Ph.D. is not used in newspapers or magazines so not in news releases.

Phone numbers – Use parentheses around the area code. For more information, contact Dahl at (701) 231-1234.

Publication names – Use the word publication, not circular or bulletin. Put quote marks around the official title of Extension publications. “Insects of Economic Importance” provides more information.

Regions – The official North Central Region recognized by USDA is capitalized, but the general vicinity is not. Canola is grown in the north-central region of the U.S.

Research Extension Center – Capitalize in all uses because these words refer to a specific organization. The event will take place at the NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center. Range scientists at NDSU’s Dickinson Research Extension Center developed the technique. Research being done on livestock diets at NDSU’s Research Extension Centers will continue.

Official names: Agronomy Seed Farm (Casselton), Carrington Research Extension Center, Central Grasslands Research Extension Center (Streeter), Dickinson Research Extension Center, Hettinger Research Extension Center, North Central Research Extension Center (Minot), Williston Research Extension Center

State – In general, leave N.D. off after towns/cities in the state. Use ND if in an address. Only write out North Dakota if the words are part of an official name, and the abbreviation may be used on second reference. Send the registration form to 204 5th Ave. W., Lisbon, ND 58054. The North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station will have its budget hearing next week.

Sugar beet – For news releases and publications for the public, use as two words.

Times – Use figures except for noon and midnight. The :00 isn’t necessary. The office is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The luncheon will be served at noon.

Titles – Capitalize official titles only directly before an individual’s name. The presentation was given by NDSU President Joseph Chapman. Lowercase titles when set off from a name by commas: Sean Brotherson, family science specialist, gave a presentation. According to Rod Lym, weed scientists, the infestation levels are high. Lowercase job descriptions directly before an individual’s name: Research conducted by food scientist Sam Chang has been featured in the journal. In a list rather than a sentence, capitalize titles:

Dale Herman

Professor of Horticulture

Department of Plant Sciences


Feeding Distiller’s Dried Grains, Greg Lardy, Extension Beef Cattle Specialist and Associate Professor, Department of Animal and Range Sciences, North Dakota State University


ZIP – Use all capital letters when referring to ZIP code because it is an acronym for Zoning Improvement Plan.


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Last Updated: Friday, February 20, 2009 11:35:52 AM
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