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Gordon's editorial style


Most College communications deliver information. They are most effective when crafted in a direct, uncluttered style.

The strategies below will help.

Omit that and the whenever possible.

I hope that you can attend.

The tour guide will meet the seminar participants outside the hotel.

Use contractions only in informal writing.

Do not use contractions in communications from the President's Office, or formal pieces such as development letters and official reports.

Contractions are acceptable in less formal College writing such as alumni materials; press releases; letters to faculty, staff and students; and admissions material.

Avoid acronyms and jargon.

The broad audience that receives many College communications may have little baseline knowledge of your subject. Use words nearly any reader could understand.

Place the most important information at or near the beginning of departmental newsletter articles, letters, online informational articles and the like.

Write direct sentences that don't need much punctuation.

Review your writing. If a sentence has a bumper crop of internal punctuation, rearrange words so less punctuation will be required.

Under Emmanuel Krivine, Mr. Obenhorn performed a piece by Liszt,  the Concerto in E flat, with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra.

Mr. Obenhorn performed Liszt's Concerto in E Flat with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra conducted by Emmanuel Krivine.

 Keep verb tenses simple.

Use the past, present and future tense unless a more complex verb form is essential.

The tour guide will be meeting seminar participants outside the hotel.

Use hyphenation sparingly. 

Gordon's general rules of thumb are to use a hyphen

  • where the same letter would appear twice in a row
  • to create some compound adjectives, if they might otherwise be confusing

preexisting  pre-existing      the twentieth century novel  the twentieth-century novel

Consult "Gordon Dictionary" to see which words to hyphenate ➔

Use phrasing and grammar to achieve emphasis. If tempted to use italics to indicate emphasis, tinker with sentence structure instead, or use strong, specific words.

Avoid he or/and she. Do not use s/he or he/she.

Substituting they is sometimes an option, but it can introduce noun-verb disagreement. If possible, revise to eliminate the need for he and she, or he/she.

In sentences that resist a solution, College style is to opt for he and she / he or she.


Essays, feature articles, and creative nonfiction in Gordon's publications and blogs are very different forms of writing, and may employ extended introductions and a range of literary devices. When writing these, it is not essential  to employ all the strategies mentioned above. However, please should follow the styles laid out elsewhere in this guide.

Gordon Athletics web pages, news releases and other materials will be crafted in an informal, athletics-specific writing style. However, they should follow the styles elsewhere in this guide.

Browse the Gordon Athletics section of the style guide ➔

Formal communications such as letters and invitations sent by the offices of the President, Provost, the Development Office and some other departments may include honorifics, personal titles, and formal phrasing rarely used in other College communications. They should follow the styles laid out elsewhere in this guide.

Faculty members and students undertaking scholarly writing will need to adhere to style points set out in other style manuals specific to their academic fields. The Gordon College style guide applies specifically to College website content and PR and marketing writing, and does not presume to dictate how professors and others should go about scholarly work, creative writing, or other literary pursuits.


Writing should not equate a person's circumstances with that person's essential identify.

a diabetic  a woman with diabetes      a homeless man  a man who is homeless

Refer to someone's ethnicity or race only if it is relevant to what you are writing.

When such a reference is called for, inquire about the preference of the person you are writing about. If this is impractical, use the terms below.

Asian      Asian American      African American      Latino      Native American

Restructure sentences so he, his or her, man and other gender-exclusive terms are unnecessary.

Here are some strategies. You can find many others on the Internet.

  • revise to change a singular subject to the plural
  • substitute an infinitive
  • resequence the words in the sentence

Each student must register for his or her classes by Sept. 12.

Students must register for classes by Sept. 12.


Everyone knows he should improve his study skills.

Every student knows it is important to improve study skills. 


A sociologist has to be aware of his own biases.

Awareness of personal biases is critical for sociologists.

Replace gender-specific words with gender-neutral ones. Here a few examples:

man, mankind




news anchor
cave dweller
first-year student

mail carrier

people, humanity

staffing, workforce

Language in the Bible

Various translations of the Bible use pronouns quite differently. Writers should consider their audience when selecting a translation to quote from. (Gordon does not endorse any "official" version.) Spell out the name of the version after the passage, in parentheses, whether it is integrated into a paragraph or stands alone as a separate block of copy. If it appears in a paragraph, put the Scriptural passage in quotation marks. The passage and the name of the version should appear in normal body type (not italicized or boldfaced).

Here are examples of translations of Romans 2: 6–8:

If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. (New International Version)


We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7 ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8 the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. (New Revised Standard Version)

So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. 7 If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. 8 If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. (New Living Translation)


Use normal body type for the names of

  • event series
  • blogs
  • websites

Alton C. Bynum Recital Series

Conversations with the President

Homecoming and Family Weekend


Faith Seeking Understanding

Herrmann Lectures on Faith and Science

Notes Along the Way

Place double quotation marks around the titles of

  • speeches and lectures
  • panel discussions
  • art exhibitions
  • short musical works (such as songs, or sonatas)
  • individual episodes or segments of podcasts, TV shows or other broadcasts or webcasts

"Investing in an Unpredicable Economy"      "From My Book: Installations by Jay Walker"

"How Great Thou Art"      "Stuff You Missed in History Class: Emu War of 1932"

Italicize the titles of

  • films
  • plays
  • books
  • print newspapers, magazines and journals
  • long musical works (such as operas and symphonies)
  • visual artworks (such as paintings)
  • TV show series, and series of podcasts or webcasts
  • sound and video recordings

Elf      Working      White Noise      The Tartan      Nixon in China

Bruce Herman's Golgotha      Stuff You Missed in History Class      Caspian's Walking Season


In all of the above, capitalize:

  • all proper nouns
  • all verbs, regardless of length
  • all other major words


  • prepositions (unless you would stress that preposition when reading the title/phrase aloud, as in the film title A River Runs Through It)
  • articles such as a, an, the (unless an article is the first or last word of the title)
  • the second part of a hyphenated compound (unless that second part is a proper noun, or adjective)

Twenty-first-century Views of Marriage      "The Civil War in the Mid-Atlantic States"

Replicate unusual formats

If the title of a published work (e.g. the title of a book, play, or film) varies from the style laid out above, reproduce exactly the official title, with its variant punctuation, capitalization, spelling and/or spacing.

STILLPOINT  (magazine)

"QU4RTETS" (art exhibition)  

The Education of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N  (book)  


Some once-fresh words and phrases are tired; see below for a few of them. Let's give them a rest.  Restructure a sentence, if necessary, to find a better way to express your thought.

at the end of the day
be that as it may
bucket list
it is important to note that . . .
low-hanging fruit
spoiler alert


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