Writing Style Guide
In most instances, the San Diego Workforce Partnership references AP style for grammar, punctuation, capitalization, etc. There are, however, circumstances where we follow our own protocol. If you can’t find a particular reference to your question in this guide and appendices, please search online for AP style guidance or contact a member of the marketing & communications team. For spelling, refer to the Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Use Control+F or Command+F to find what you are looking for on this page.
Common Terms Used in Our Documents
a.m. Example: 7 a.m., 11:30 a.m. (not “am”)
advanced manufacturing One of the priority sectors identified by the San Diego Workforce Partnership (do not capitalize)
annual report (not capitalized, not funding report)
assemblymember One word and capitalized only when directly preceding a name. Example: “Assemblymember Todd Gloria visited the Workforce Partnership office on Friday.” Do not use gendered versions (“Assemblywoman” or “Assemblyman”). Abbreviated form is “Asm.” (e.g. “Asm. Todd Gloria.”)
associate degree (not associate’s degree)
bachelor’s degree (not bachelor degree)
Bank of America Merrill Lynch Workforce Development Center Official name of downtown library Career Center
career center The term we use to refer to our community-based centers for job seekers (do not capitalize). Names of specific career centers (e.g., Metro Career Center) are capitalized.
child care The care of children especially as a service while parents are working (two words)
clean energy One of the priority sectors identified by the Workforce Partnership (do not capitalize)
councilmember (one word) capitalized only when directly preceding a name. Example: “The event was attended by Councilmember Myrtle Cole.” Avoid gendered versions (“Councilman” or “Councilwoman”).
coworker (no hyphen)
data When referring to data as a collective noun, treat it as singular, as you would with the word “information.” Example: “The data is sound.” When referring to data as individual items, treat it as plural, as you would with the word “facts.” Example: “The data have been carefully collected.”
e.g., for example
email (no hyphen)
essential skills The preferred term for “soft skills”
health care One of the priority sectors identified by the Workforce Partnership (two words; do not capitalize)
i.e., that is (always in parentheses)
information and communication technologies One of the priority sectors identified by the Workforce Partnership (do not capitalize)
job seeker (two words, not hyphenated)
job readiness/job-readiness (hyphenatedwhen modifying a noun; ex. “job-readiness training”)
layoff (one word)
life sciences One of the priority sectors identified by the Workforce Partnership (do not capitalize)
master’s degree (not master degree)
nonprofit (one word, no hyphen)
OK (not “okay”)
p.m. Ex. 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m. (not “pm”)
post-secondary any education beyond high school (not “postsecondary” or “post secondary”)
priority sectors industry sectors deemed by research to have significant employment growth rates, strong wages and number of job openings
resume (do not use accent marks)
RFP request for proposal (not capitalized when spelled out)
RFQ request for quotes
San Diego State University (SDSU on second reference where appropriate)
The San Diego Foundation (full name includes “The”)
The San Diego Union-Tribune (full name includes “The”)
University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego also acceptable; UCSD on second reference where appropriate)
UC San Diego Extension
University of San Diego (USD on second reference where appropriate)
workforce (one word)
work readiness/work-readiness (hyphenated when modifying a noun; ex. “work-readiness training”)
wraparound (one word)
Common Style Issues
Abbreviations & Acronyms
Spell out on first reference, followed by acronym or abbreviation in parentheses. Use acronym or abbreviation without parentheses thereafter. Plural of acronyms take on a lowercase “s” without an apostrophe. Example: ISAs.
Can be used in place of and in headlines and bylines where appropriate, but never in running text unless part of a proper name of an organization, program, etc. (The name of the marketing & communications department includes an ampersand in lieu of “and” whenever possible.)
Use sentence case for enews headlines only. Capitalize the first word in a sentence as well as proper nouns and other words that are generally capitalized by a more specific in-house style rule.
Exceptions: Event names, report titles and press releases use title case.
Capitalize the first and last words of a title or subtitle, as well as all verbs, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, correlative conjunctions (either, both) and subordinate conjunctions (if, that). In other words, capitalize all interior words except articles (a, an, the), coordinate conjunctions (and, but, or, for, nor) and prepositions of five letters or less.
Capitalize names of industries (e.g., Leisure and Hospitality, Government) only when referring to EDD industry names in research reports and LMI emails, but not in other materials. Do not capitalize general terms often found in research material (e.g., “civilian unemployment”).
No capitalization for department or team names. Examples: research department (not Research Department); finance (not Finance).
No capitalization for special populations. See Elected Officials for special capitalization rules.
Use quotation marks for titles of books, computer games, movies, operas, plays, poems, albums and songs, radio and TV shows, lectures, speeches, works of art, book chapter titles. Italicize reference work or report/journal titles.
- Spell out the name of a month when used alone or with a year alone (no date). Example: August 2010.
- When used with a day, the year should always be set off with commas. Example: The article was published in the January 1, 2019, issue of The Economist.
- When indicating a range of dates, use an en dash (–) not repeating the month. Example: March 2–15, 2018, or February 28–March 3, 2018.
- Always include the day of the week when listing an event date. Example: “Opportunity Summit: Initiate will take place Thursday, April 12.” (No need to include the year when it is clear the event takes place in the current year.)
- Use instead of “politician.”
- The following titles are abbreviated when used directly before a name, both inside and outside quotation marks: Dr., Gov., Lt. Rep. Sen. Example: “San Diego was recently visited by Gov. Jerry Brown.” Spell out and capitalize in other uses. Example: “Jerry Brown is the state governor.”
- In general, avoid gendered terms like “congressman” or “congresswoman;” use “senator” or “representative” instead. Use “Sen.” and “Rep.” before a name on first introduction. Example: Sen. Kamala Harris.
- Councilmember is one word, even when used with the full name of the city council. Example: “San Diego City Councilmember Todd Gloria served as interim Mayor.”
- It is not necessary to include the title after the first reference. Example: “Mayor Kevin Faulconer was elected in a special election in February 2014. Faulconer will serve the balance of his predecessor’s term, through the end of 2016.”
- Avoid use of the term “The Honorable.” The Honorable is a courtesy title used with current and retired high-ranking federal and state officials and judges, and with some local officials. Although anyone elected to public office is entitled to be addressed as the Honorable for life, it is rare that we would need to address someone with such a formal title. When its use is deemed appropriate, use the Honorable before a full name, as it describes an individual—not the name of an office.
Internet/Technology Terms & Usage
- email (not “e-mail”)
- enews/enewsletter (not e-news, not eNews)
- homepage (one word)
- internet (not capitalized)
- website (one word)
- Do not include leading www or http:// or https:// in a URL. Example: “Visit our website at workforce.org.” Include http:// and https:// in hyperlink instead.
- When a sentence ends with a URL, include the final period for the sentence. The period will not interfere with reaching websites.
- Do not italicize or underline URLs in printed material; underline in digital format for eNews, online articles, etc., where appropriate.
- Do not hyphenate a URL (or an email address); a hyphen can easily be misread as part of the URL. If a URL is too long to fit to one line, insert a soft return (SHIFT + Enter/Return) at a natural break (after a slash, @ or period if possible).
For a numbered list within a paragraph that contains more than just one or two words for each item, and that could be confusing if separated by just commas, use figures followed by a single parenthesis: Example:1) … ; 2) … ; and 3) … .
Use round bullets rather than dashes.
For a numbered list that is set out separate from the paragraph, use numbers and omit semicolons and an ending period (DO add a period at the end of each if all the bullets are in full sentences).
Numbers, Numerals & Symbols
- In most instances, spell out one to nine; use numerals for 10 and above.
- Spell out any number that begins a sentence. Example: Ninety-four percent of the respondents reported that they work 12-hour shifts.
- Spell out fractions less than one (e.g., one-third). Use numerals for decimals (e.g., 1.5).
- For numbers in a series, follow the above guidelines; however, if any number in the series is greater than 10, convert all other numbers in the series to numerals. Example: They had 4 cats, 11 dogs and 7 hamsters.
- Use numerals for:
- Dates: June 2, 2018
- Times: 3 p.m.
- Age: The boy was 3 years old.
- Dimensions: With lowercase “x” (not “by”). Example: 8.5 x 11”
- Headlines: Top 5 management ideas
- For spelling 1 million and up: 1.5 million people attended the rally.
- Numbers 10 or above when used to indicate a sequence in time or location (spell out one through nine). Examples: He was first in line. The conference was two decades ago. Approximately 800 people attended Opportunity Summit: Initiate.
- In general, do not use ® or ™ symbols.
It is now acceptable to use the percent symbol (%) in running text (2019 update). Always use a numeral (1%) except at the start of a sentence; in this case use “One percent” (spell out “percent” rather than use the % in this case). Use numerals for percentages.
No capitalization or quotation marks around population groups.
- dislocated worker
- homeless person
- long-term unemployed individuals
- opportunity youth
- Single space after a period
- Do not use the serial comma (no comma before the “and” in a series). Example: “The career center offers help with resume writing, interviewing skills and career planning.” Exception: Use a serial comma when list could be confusing. Example: “Job training is provided by our funded partners, philanthropic grants and donations, and government sources.”
- Periods and commas always go inside quotation marks (whether double or single). Example: “Young people can’t aspire to careers they don’t know exist,” said Ed Hidalgo.
- When two or more words serve as a single descriptor of a noun, use a hyphen. Examples: second-quarter earnings; full-time job
- Do not use a hyphen if one of those words is and adverb (ends in ly). Example: an easily remembered rule
- Comparatives and superlatives do not take hyphens. Example: “a better built house” or a “worst case scenario”
- No hyphen when attaching a suffix such as “countywide”
- When in doubt, don’t hyphenate
- Em dash: Depending on the context, the em dash can take the place of commas, parentheses, or colons—in each case to slightly different effect. Do not include spaces around the em dash.
- (In place of commas) When the car was finally delivered—nearly three months after it was ordered—she decided she no longer wanted it.
- (In place of parenthesis)Upon discovering the errors—all 124 of them—the publisher immediately recalled the books.
- (In place of colon) After months of deliberation, the jurors reached a unanimous verdict—guilty.
- Create on numeric keypad by pressing Alt+0151 (or Alt+Ctrl+ – (minus)) on a PC, or Shift-Alt-hyphen or Command + M on a Mac.
- En dash: The en dash (–) is slightly wider than the hyphen (-) but narrower than the em dash (—). The en dash is most often used to represent a span or range of numbers, dates, or time. Do not include spaces around the en dash.
Example: There are approximately 43,000 young adults ages 16–24 not in school or working. Create on numeric keypad by pressing Alt+0150 (or Ctrl + – (minus)) on a PC, or Alt-hyphen on a Mac.
- Plurals: Add an s (no apostrophe) to figures and acronyms. Examples: The San Diego Workforce Partnership started in the 1970s. Many EMTs went through training.
- Colons: Capitalize the first word of a complete sentence following a colon. Don’t capitalize a fragment following a colon. Example: Never forget this point: Think before you speak. Example: The Workforce Partnership has many audiences: businesses/employers, educators, government officials, job seekers and partners.
- Semicolons: Use the semicolon to separate elements that contain commas themselves within a series. Example: I subscribe to several computer magazines, which include reviews of new, better-designed hardware; descriptions of inexpensive, commercial software programs; advice from experts; and actual utility programs, which make keeping track of my files easier.
- Don’t use the semicolon in a series that does not contain interfering commas.
- When a semicolon is used to link two independent clauses, the word following the semicolon should not be capitalized.
- Note: The semicolon is characteristic of formal or literary writing. Don’t overuse it.
In general, use present tense when introducing a quote. Example: The Workforce Partnership CEO Callstrom says, “It is an honor to win the WIOA Trailblazer Award.” Use past tense when the quote is explicitly shown to be from an event in the past. Example: During the CWA conference in August, Ron Painter said, “[fill in blank].”
Avoid altering direct quotations. Don’t change quotes of a highly sensitive or legal nature. Don’t change quotes to be grammatically correct unless the incorrect phrasing is unintelligible. Remove “um,” “like” and similar colloquial phrasing unless you believe it to be necessary to convey tone for the particular speaker. Minor changes to single words or short phrases are permissible if there is no question as to whether meaning is being compromised and it does not change tone. If the quote must be changed in any significant way, send the quote to the author for review. Writer should make a judgment call as to whether to contact speaker to confirm quote. Avoid the use of brackets unless it involves controversial/sensitive phrasing or a large amount of text.
San Diego Workforce Partnership References
Spell out in full on first reference in all cases. Use “the Workforce Partnership” on subsequent mentions. (Do not use “SDWP” after 2018.) Example: “The Workforce Partnership is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor” and “The Workforce Partnership Policy Board offers … ”
(619) 555-1234. With extensions: (800) 555-1234 x567
- Use a.m. and p.m. (with periods).
- Include space between numerals and a.m. and p.m. Example: 7:15 a.m. (not 7:15am).
- When listing a time range, use the en dash (not a hyphen) without spaces.
- When listing a time that is on the hour, do not include “:00” after the hour.
- Only mention a.m. or p.m. once if the start and end times are both in the morning or afternoon. Example: 7:30–8 a.m., 12 noon–3 p.m., 10 a.m.–1 p.m.
Commonly Confused Words & Phrases
affect/effect Affect is a verb that means to influence. Example: “The music deeply affected him.” Only use affectas a noun when speaking in psychological terms of someone’s appearance. Example: “A sad affect may be a symptom of depression.” Effect is usually a noun that means result. Example: “His sunburn was an effect of exposure to the sun.” Effect can also be used as a verb meaning to bring about change (less common). Example: “She effected her test score by studying hard.”
assure/ensure/insure Assure is a verb that speaks directly to a person, to give him or her confidence in a promise. Ensure is to guarantee or to provide something. Use insure only for activities of insurance companies.
back up/backup When used as a verb: “back up.” Example: A second ambulance is on standby to back up the first team. When used as an adjective or noun: “backup”
because/since Because gives a reason or cause. In most circumstances, a comma is not needed before because. Since is best used when it denotes a period of time, whether continuous or broken.
beside/besides Beside usually means next to. Besides generally means in addition to or other than. If possible, substitute the more specific in addition to for besides.
but/however But is preferred. For however, separate by punctuation (can be a period and a comma, semi-colon and a comma, or comma and a comma). Note: But is often used when and is correct. Only use but or however to indicate a change in direction from the previous statement/phrase.
compare to, compare withCompare to means “regard as similar,” and compare with means “examine to discover similarities or differences.” Example: The instructor compared the diagram to [not with] a map. The student compared the first draft with [not to] the second draft.
comprise Use sparingly. The whole comprises the parts, but the parts make up the whole. Example: The committee was comprisedof a workforce leaders, employers and union representatives.
different than/different from Different from is always correct. Different than is only acceptable when the object of comparison is expressed by a full clause.
driver/factor/indicator Driver: Something that provides impulse or motivation. Factor: Something that actively contributes to the production of a result. Indicator: A sign, symptom or index of something. Youth unemployment, labor force participation and a leaky education pipeline are considered indicators of youth disconnection, not the direct causes of it.
education/educational Use “education” as a modifier whenever it refers to the system of instruction such as school and university: Education system. Use “educational” only when saying something was enlightening: The webinar was educational.
e.g./i.e. Only use within parentheses. Always follow with comma. Use e.g., to indicate “for example.” Use i.e., to indicate “in other words” or “that is.
effective/efficient Effective describes the result. Efficient describes the process.
farther/further/furthermore Farther/farthest describes physical distance. Further/furthest describes metaphorical, or figurative, distance. Further can also mean “in addition” or “moreover.” This is more commonly seen as furthermore.
flesh out/flush out To flesh out something is to give it substance, or to make it fuller or more nearly complete (think fleshing out a skeleton). Example: “to flesh out a plan”. To flush out something is to cause it to leave a hiding place. Example: “The birds were flushed out of the tree.” It can also be used figuratively, as in “flush out the truth.”
last/past Use past when referring to a point in time. Example: this past year not this last year. It isn’t the last year; there will be many more.
like/such as Use like for comparable things and such asfor actual examples. When in doubt, rewrite using such as or avoiding the construction altogether.
may/might May indicates that the situation is more likely to occur. Might indicates the opposite, that the outcome is less certain.
myriad “Myriad” (by itself, as an adjective) is the preferred form. Do not use “a myriad of” in our communications.
set up/setup Set up is the verb; setup is the noun.
stand by/standby Stand by is the verb; standby is the adjective, adverb or noun.
tenet/tenant Tenet is a principle or belief, especially one of the main principles of a religion or philosophy; tenant is a person who occupies land or property rented from a landlord.
that/which Use that with a restrictive clause that provides essential information: The cup that is on the table is full (distinguishes a specific cup that is full). Use which with a nonrestrictive clause, one providing nonessential information: The cup, which is on the table, is full (“which is on the table” gives nonessential information). Set off nonrestrictive clauses with commas. Restrictive clauses are essential so do not take commas. Don’t overuse. “That is” or “which is” can frequently be deleted without losing the sentence’s meaning.
upon Sounds colloquial. Try to use “on.”
whether/if Use if when you have a conditional sentence and whether when you are showing that two alternatives are possible.