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Written Communications

Members of the Ferris State community who will communicate on behalf of the university are asked to observe the following guidelines to create clear and consistent communications.

Messaging Guidelines

"Messaging" refers to approved concepts about the university that we want to promote. Messages use a specific tagline statement and voice, as well as considerations of audience and communication style. 

Ferris Forward 

Based on overwhelming input by internal constituents including faculty, staff, current students and alumni, the university has proudly selected "Ferris Forward" as its tagline and signature statement.

“Ferris Forward” speaks to our vocational roots and commitment to hands-on, practical approaches to education and learning that support the success of our students and the industries in which they will work. It is our guiding principle and purpose as members of the Ferris community. It should be applied in all appropriate and positive contexts to promote the university's goals, identity and purpose. 

"Ferris Forward" does not need to be restricted to use as a traditional tagline, appearing adjacent to the university wordmark. It does not need to be used only in direct conjunction with the university name. It should also be used as our signature statement in headlines, sub-headlines, callout text and body copy as appropriate to the communication purpose. 

If you have questions about implementing "Ferris Forward" in any content, please contact [email protected].  


While our voice must stay consistent in communications, there’s room for flexibility when speaking to our unique audience groups. 

When reaching prospective students, our style can be more casual and conversational. When communicating with adult stakeholders, professionals or organizations, our style should be professional and informative.

Editorial Approach

Intended mainly for recruitment, spirit, and alumni- and student-focused communications, this approach to voice should be narrative, engaging, immersive, inspirational and more informal. 

a. "This is a foundation that moves you."

b. "This isn’t just the course, the professors and the diploma. This is for the welder who happens to be our starting goalie."

c. "Don’t sit at the desk. Build the office."

d. "We're here for those who get things done. Who can't wait to get started on the rest of their lives."

Informative Approach

This approach is more appropriate for audiences such as donors, parents of students, industry representatives and policymakers. It is high-impact but more direct, factual and formal. 

a. "Ferris moves at the speed of industry."

b. "We keep our education relevant with hands-on, lab-based learning. Our professors are career practitioners, equipping students with the industry skills, experience and knowledge they’ll need to make an impact right away."

c. "Employers want more than a college degree. They want job candidates with real-world experience."

d. "Change is inevitable, but one thing is constant: We're here to help prepare for it."


Language should be adjusted to resonate with the specific audience for each communication.

Prospective and current students 

Narrative Approach - immersive, experiential, moving:

a. "Work side-by-side with industry pros."

b. "Move ideas. Move minds. Move the world forward."

c. "This is an unbreakable foundation that fuels lifelong careers."

d. "From writers and actors to CEOs and Stanley Cup winners, Ferris grads take their hands-on experiences everywhere they go. Where will Ferris take you?"

Alumni, internal constituents, parents and community

Expository Approach - direct, proven, insightful:

a. "Ferris moves at the speed of industry."

b. "Employers want more than a college degree. They want job candidates with real-world experience. At Ferris, we tailor program curricula to meet industry demands—getting students closer to their craft right from the start."

c. "Instructors are more than professors, they’re industry professionals. Offering invaluable insights, trade secrets and business connections to fuel a lifelong career."

Donors, industry and policy makers

Descriptive Approach: impactful, inspiring, dedicated:

a. "Ferris moves at the speed of industry."

b. "Ferris was founded to prepare students with the knowledge, skills and experiences they need to make an impact right away."

c. "We keep our education relevant with hands- on, lab-based learning. Our professors are career practitioners, equipping students with the industry skills, experience and knowledge they’ll need to make an impact right away." 

Additional Content Considerations

Please apply the following general guidelines in creation of content for university communications to keep copy clear, consistent and engaging.

Simplify messaging to scale down copy.

Identify a single, overarching message for each piece to avoid information overload.

Tell a cohesive story.

Describe the experience and direct students to the Web or other digital content for more details.

Convey who we are in addition to what we offer.

Sprinkle in editorial content that speaks to the values, culture and overall identity of Ferris—section headlines, subheadlines and introductory copy are good places for this type of content.

Emphasize key information.

Use callouts to highlight significant information and add context to facts and statistics.

Dial up the empathy.

Use student stories to demonstrate the level of support they receive from faculty and staff, and use others' testimonials to communicate the value of the education they received at Ferris in their own terms. .

Copywriting Guidelines

The following information is a copy style guide for use in Ferris State University communications. It incorporates the Associated Press style traditionally used in newspapers and in common use within the University. Please note that most third-party publishers, particularly news providers, prefer use of AP style.

Highly technical documents or reports may require special submission standards over which these general recommendations do not take precedence. Always consult guidelines provided by publishers, accreditation bodies and other document recipients in such special circumstances.

If you have a question not addressed in these guidelines or are uncertain about their application to your document, please consult The Associated Press Stylebook, e-mail Anne Hogenson at [email protected], or call (231) 591-2333.

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Punctuation Guidelines


Academic colleges and departments

Capitalize when the full name of the unit is given: The College of Business has a new dean.

Capitalize when shortening the phrase to the defining term: Three faculty members from Mathematics will attend the conference.

Use lower case when shortening to a non-defining term: Alumni of the college have shown wonderful support for current students. The department is excited for the new semester.

Academic degrees (AP Stylebook, page 5)

If mention of degrees is necessary to establish someone’s credentials, the preferred form is to avoid an abbreviation and use a phrase.

CorrectJohn Jones, who has a doctorate in psychology.
CorrectShe has a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications.

Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree, a master’s, etc.

Exception – an associate degree (no possessive apostrophe).

Use uppercase for specific degrees, such as Master of Science or Bachelor of Arts,lowercase for non-specific degrees, such as bachelor’s degree. Use doctoral degree. Doctorate is a noun; doctoral is an adjective.

Academic degrees, concentrations and classes (University use, not AP style)

Capitalize Ferris degrees, concentrations and classes: Ferris offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in Biology, Communications, English, History and Mathematics. Many Applied Biology majors choose the Pre-Medicine concentration. Students in Argumentation and Debate earn three credit hours.

Academic Titles

Capitalize and spell out formal titles, such as chancellor, chairman, dean, etc. when they precede a name. Lower the case elsewhere. Lower the case of modifiers such as department in department Chairman John Wright.

Exception – lower the case of professor, even before a name, and never abbreviate. (AP Stylebook, pages 5, 199)


On the first reference, spell out the full name of what the acronym refers to, but do not follow the name with the acronym in parentheses. On the second reference, use only the acronym: The University Advancement and Marketing staff meets monthly. The next meeting of the UA&M staff will be June 27.

Exception – in certain cases, acronyms are appropriate as first, or even only, reference; i.e., NASCAR or NASA.

Administrative departments, divisions and offices

Capitalize when the full name of the unit is given: The Division of Academic Affairs will sponsor the event.

Capitalize when shortening the phrase to the defining term: International Education welcomes its new students.

Use lower case when shortening to a non-defining term: The division will hold its staff retreat in May. The office is preparing for the new semester.

Adviser, advisor (AP Stylebook, page 7)

AP style uses adviser; however, advisor is commonly used in academic settings.


Use figures in all instances, unless the numeral would begin the sentence. The girl is 15 years old. The law is 8 years old. Use hyphens for ages expressed as adjectives: A 5-year-old boy, the woman is in her 30s (use no apostrophe with the final -s).


Preferable to informal alum; regular capitalization rules apply: Alumnus John Smith; John Smith, College of Business alumnus.

Alumna (singular, female)
Alumnae (plural, female)
Alumni (plural, male and female)
Alumnus (singular, male)

a.m, p.m

Write in lower case with periods, leaving a single space after the numeral: 10 a.m. Avoid the redundant 10 p.m. this morning.

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Accepted abbreviations:

Alumni Building ALU
Arts & Sciences Commons ASC
Automotive Center AUT
Birkam Health Center BHC
Bishop Hall BIS
Business Building BUS
Creative Arts Center CAC
Granger Center GRN
Heavy Equipment Center HEC
Interdisciplinary Resource Center IRC
Johnson Hall JOH
Katke Golf Course KAT
Library (FLITE) FLT
Michigan College of Optometry MCO
Music Activities Center MUS
National Elastomer Center NEC
Pharmacy Building PHR
Prakken Building PRK
Racquet Club RQT
Science Building SCI
South Commons SCO
Southwest Commons SWC
Sports Complex SPO
Starr Building STR
Student Recreation Center SRC
Swan Technical Building SWN
Timme Center for Student Services CSS
David L. Eisler Center UCB
Victor F. Spathelf Center for Allied Health VFS
West Building WES
West Commons WCO
Williams Auditorium WIL

Building names

Building names may be abbreviated to the given acronyms for mailing addresses and internal memoranda only, using the forms Prakken 101 orPRK 101 (no hyphen). For business cards and formal communications, use the former. On mailing labels, the correct format for an address is either of the following forms:

420 Oak Street, Prakken 101
420 Oak Street, PRK 101

External communications, including website text, should feature the full name of the building each time, using the phrase “the…Building/Center/Commons” the first time:

Correct – The first stop on our campus tour was the Timme Student Services Center. We spent several minutes walking the grounds at Timme.

Exception – FLITE: Next we visited the Ferris Library for Information, Technology and Education. FLITE was one of our favorite stops.


When referring to our sports teams or a collective group of people, useBulldogs and not Bulldawgs or the Dawgs. The Bulldogs have tied for first place in the GLIAC. However, it is acceptable to use the term Dawg alone in copy, as in Dawg Days.

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Only put a period at the end of a photo caption if it is a complete sentence.

Composition titles (University use, not AP style)

Italicize titles of newspapers, magazines, book and film titles. Put quotation marks around short stories, articles, television program, lectures, speeches and visual art titles.

Correct – I read it in Crimson & Gold.
– Have you seen Robert Barnum’s “The Visionary”?


Retain the hyphen when forming nouns, adjectives and verbs that indicate occupation or status: co-worker, co-chairman, co-sponsor, co-signer, co-author, co-partner, co-host.

Exceptions – coordinator, cooperate.

Courtesy titles (AP Stylebook, page 62)

In general, do not use. Use full name on first reference and last name on subsequent references: Robert Friar will speak at the World Conference on Sexology. Friar is our resident expert on human sexuality.

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

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Dates (AP Stylebook, page 68)

When a phrase lists only a month and a year, do not separate the year with a comma: January 2004. However, use commas before and after the year when listing month, day and year: On Jan. 1, 2003, the merger took effect. Always use Arabic figures, without st, nd, rd or th.

When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., Dec. (Do not abbreviate March, April, May, June, July.)

Do not abbreviate days of the week: Facilities Management inventory will be taken Friday, Jan. 31; Monday, March 31; Saturday, June 30 and Thursday, Sept. 30.

Dates by decade or century use a final s but no apostrophe and should always be given in all of their digits.

Use a hyphen when connecting the word mid- to dates: The mid-1920s.However, use no hyphen with early and late: The late 1970s.

Use A.D. and B.C. only in combination with dates given in numerals. Years are assumed to be A.D. unless B.C. is specified.

Correct - January 2, 2005
- January 2nd, 2005

Correct – In the 1900s, by the 1980s
– In the 60s


When specifying whole dollar amounts, do not add .00 to the amount:The ticket will cost $5; the price per cartridge is $12.75.

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Use the hyphen and regular capitalization rules: e-mail.


Place emeritus after the formal title: Professor emeritus Samuel Morrison; Courtney Brown, professor emerita of History.

Emerita (singular, female)
Emeritae (plural, female)
Emeriti (plural, male and female)
Emeritus (singular, male)

Ensure vs. insure

To ensure means to make certain. To insure means to acquire or provide insurance.

Exclamation point

Avoid overuse, which actually reduces the impact of each exclamation. As a rule, exclamation points, like italics, should be used only when word choice or context cannot create adequate emphasis.

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Ferris State University

In text, refer to as Ferris State University on first reference. Preferred subsequent references are Ferris or the University.


Use only the apostrophe after the final -s.

Correct – Ferris’ enrollment has increased by 6 percent this academic year.
– Ferris’s academic departments will soon complete program reviews.

Fundraising, fundraiser

Write as one word in all cases.

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Grade point average, GPA

Abbreviation to GPA is acceptable in all cases. If the second value after the decimal point is a zero, omit the the zero: 3.0 and 3.25, but 3.5.


Do not abbreviate to the informal grad.

When identifying graduates by name to audiences within the Ferris community, provide the acronym of the graduate’s college and two-digit graduation year after the reference: Ferris graduate John Smith (EHS ’89).

When identifying graduates’ academic programs to general audiences, use a more explanatory phrase: John Smith, who graduated from Ferris’ Criminal Justice program in 1989…

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Only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized.

Home page

Write as two words separated by a space.

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Always use uppercase.

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Use a hyphen when connecting a word with a numeral: In the mid-1970s

More than

Use more than instead of over: More than 150 students attended the event


In general, use no hyphen: He is the director of multicultural affairs.

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Numerals (AP Stylebook, page 172)

Spell out numbers one through nine; use figures for 10 and above:Sigma Pi owns four eight room houses, 10 nine-room houses and 12 10-room houses.

Exception – When referring to 2-year degrees and 4-year degrees, use figures. When referring to dollar figures or other figures featuring decimal points, use numerals for efficiency. See "Percent" entry for additional guidelines.

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Online (AP Stylebook, page 177)

Write as one word in lowercase.

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One word. Spell out percent when used in copy. Use numerals. He said 5 percent of the membership was there. Repeat percent with each individual figure. He said 10 percent to 30 percent of the electorate may not vote.

Exception: Technical documents featuring multiple references to percentages should use numerals in combination with the percentage and other symbols for efficiency, unless the document will be transmitted in a way that prohibits use of symbols, such as wire service or document reader

Plurals (AP Stylebook, page 190)

Use no apostrophe in figures or multi-letter sequences unless possessive:1920s, CDs, 747s, five size 7s, ABCs, IOUs. Use an apostrophe with one-letter plurals to avoid confusion with two letter words. She received two A’s and three B’s.

p.m., a.m.

Write in lower case with periods, leaving a single space after the numeral: 10 p.m. Avoid the redundant 10 p.m. tonight.

Preventive vs. preventative

Preventive is an adjective; preventative is a noun: Patients are increasingly interested in preventive medicine; he needed a reliable preventative.


Write with lowercase p: The Career Exploration program is helpful to many students.

Academic majors should be referred to as degrees, unless within the context of the sentence degrees could be confused with academic degrees (such as bachelor’s, master’s and etc.).

Exception – Honors Program

Proper names (AP Stylebook, page 39)

Capitalize common nouns such as party, river, street and departmentwhen they are an integral part of the full name for a person, place or thing: Republican Party, Muskegon River, State Street, Department of Public Safety. Write these common nouns in lower case when they stand alone in subsequent references: the party, the river, the street, the department, the college.

Exception - subsequent references to Ferris State University: The University has a new library.

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Said vs. says

Generally, when writing a news story and attributing a quote, said is preferred. However, when writing a feature story, says is more appropriate.

Semester seasons

Capitalize semester seasons that are year-specific. Beginning Fall 2001, all students must register using WebCT, but many students miss their 8 a.m. class during the winter semester.

Spacing between sentences

Use one space, not two, between sentences and after coordinating punctuation marks such as the colon and semicolon.

State names (AP Stylebook, page 231)

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

When writing, use The AP Stylebook abbreviations and not the Postal Service abbreviations:

Place a comma between city and state and after the state.

Correct – Jenny Jones, of Big Rapids, Mich., received a Founder’s Scholarship.
– Peter Smith, of Reed City, MI, graduated with honors.

Such as

Use such as instead of like to cite examples.

Like excludes the compared item: I need a class like Chemistry 121 (a class similar to but not specifically Chemistry 121.) I need three more credit hours in a class such as Chemistry 121, 122 or 231 (any of which would be acceptable.)

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Telephone numbers

Use parentheses around area codes and a hyphen within the phone number: (231) 591-2000.

An exception is Ferris’ toll-free number, which should be listed as 800-4-FERRIS.

Use “1” before an area code only in publications for international audiences who will dial from other nation codes.

Periods may be substituted for hyphens only when writing for audiences who use different formatting standards or as part of an approved graphic design.


Use figures for all times, except for noon and midnight.

Put a space between the hour and the a.m. or p.m.

Do not use zeros after times on the hour, and use lowercase letters for a.m. and p.m.

Avoid such redundancies as 10 a.m. this morning.

Also, select time references that are consistent with the prepositions in the phrase. Words such as from should not be used if a symbol such as a dash will stand in for words such as until or to:

Correct – Students may register from 2 to 4 p.m. on Friday.
– Students may register 2-4 p.m. on Friday.
– Students may register from 2-4 p.m. on Friday


Toward, not towards

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University addresses

When listed on one line, the street address appears first, then the building and room identification: 420 Oak Street, PRK 101.

When listed on separate lines, the address should follow this format, headed by the name of the recipient person or department:

Sam Smith
Ferris State University
420 Oak Street, PRK 101
Big Rapids, MI 49307

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Use uppercase as an abbreviation of the proper name World Wide Web,but use lowercase when forming compound words that use the word Webmore generally: World Wide Web, the Web, website, webcast, webmaster.

Omit the "www." prefix when listing domain sites, as in

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Use an -s without an apostrophe to indicate spans of decades or centuries: the 1800s, the 1990s.

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ZIP code

When writing this term, use all capital letters for the word ZIP and lowercase for code in the phrase ZIP code. ZIP is an abbreviation for the proper noun Zoning Improvement Plan.

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Punctuation Guidelines

Colons within a list

Use a colon before a list when the list is preceded by a complete sentence.

Correct – Many degrees are offered here at Ferris State University: Applied Biology, Communication, Criminal Justice and more.

Never use a colon to separate a preposition from its objects or a verb from its complements.

Incorrect – Education majors may choose: Biology, Business Education or Chemistry
- Internships offer an opportunity to learn about: markets, competition and distribution

Colons within a sentence

The word following a colon is capitalized only if it begins a complete sentence.

Correct – I know this: Next semester, I will register early.
– These are the supplies you will need: a calculator, a red pencil and a spiral notebook.

Commas (AP Stylebook, pages 325-7)

Commas within a sentence:

When a conjunction such as and, but, for, nor, or, so or yet links two clauses that could stand alone as separate sentences, use a comma before the conjunction: Early registration begins Monday, and students should review the new rules before attempting to register.

Similarly, use a comma if the subject of each clause is expressly stated, but do not use a comma when the subject of the two clauses is the same and is not repeated in the second clause.

Correct – The professor visited Washington, and he also plans a side trip to Gettysburg.
– The professor visited Washington, and also plans a side trip to Gettysburg.

Commas with essential and non-essential phrases:

Essential phrases are critical to the reader’s understanding of what the author has in mind. Do not set an essential phrase off from the rest of a sentence by commas.

Example – Jack and Diane had dinner with their friend Tom. Because Jack and Diane have more than one friend, the inclusion of Tom’s name is essential if the reader is to know which friend is meant.

Non-essential phrases clarify a concept from the preceding phrase but are not critical to the reader’s understanding of what the author has in mind. Non-essential phrases should be set off from the rest of the sentence by commas.

Example – Jack and Diane had dinner with their friend Tom and his mother, Clara. Tom’s name remains essential, but, as he has only one mother, the words his mother provide enough information for the reader to understand who is meant. For this reason, the word Clara is non-essential and is set off by a comma.

However, do not place a comma after a title that precedes a name: Executive Editor Michael Boulder died today.

Commas in a series:

Do not put a comma before the conjunction in a simple series: Beginning Spanish students learn pronunciation, vocabulary and basic grammar.

However, use a comma before the concluding conjunction in a series of complex 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.

Similarly, use a comma before the concluding conjunction in a series that features internal conjunctions: Ferris’ academic colleges include the College of Allied Health Sciences, the College of Arts, Sciences and Education, and the College of Business.

Miscellaneous comma rules:

Place a comma before and after the following when they appear in the middle of a sentence:

"A year, if it follows a month and date: She was born on Dec. 5, 1998, in Big Rapids, Mich."

"A state, if it follows a city or county name: She was born in Big Rapids, Mich., on Dec. 5, 1998."

Non-essential phrases, which clarify a concept from the preceding phrase but are not grammatically necessary to complete the sentence: I saw my boss, Harold Johnson, in the hall.

However, do not place a comma after a title that precedes a name:Executive Editor Michael Boulder died today.

Do not use a comma before Jr.: She recalled her work with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dash (–)

Used with spaces around it in a sentence to show an abrupt change in thought or emphatic pause: She went overseas – and loved every minute of it.

Hyphens (AP Stylebook, page 329)

Hyphenate between two words when they, together, serve as an adjective to a noun: A full-time job. Note: Many such phrases are hyphenated only when they function as adjectives: She works full time.

In a sentence such as Visitors receive free meals in the student dining center, no hyphen is used between student and dining since student modifies dining center.

Hyphens are used to show periods spanning years, with no spaces:2005-2006.

Quotation marks (AP style, page 334)

Periods and commas always go within the quotation marks: “The Bulldogs won.”

The dash, semicolon, question mark and exclamation point apply to the quote when they appear inside of the quotation marks. When they appear outside of the quotation marks, they apply to the whole sentence: Who could believe she would write, “This class is boring!”?

However, do not use duplicate punctuation in other cases:

Incorrect – “This class is boring!,” she wrote.

Other words and phrases in common use at the University:

-Please note the following differences in possessive naming styles. While President generally takes the singular form (in which the apostrophe precedes the final –s), words such as Deans and Founders take the plural form (in which the apostrophe follows the final –s).

President’s Council
Deans’ Council
Founders’ Room
Founders’ Day

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