AAC&U Style Guide
Using This Guide
II. Names and Terms
AAC&U and Other Organizations
Programs, Initiatives, and Projects
Meetings and Institutes
Schools, Boards, Departments, and Courses
Racial and Ethnic Groups
Words or Figures?
IV. Punctuation and Formatting
Commas and Semicolons
Hyphens and Dashes
Footnotes and Endnotes
VI. Word Lists
Troublesome Words and Expressions
The Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition) is used
for all AAC&U publications. Copies of the Chicago
Manual of Style are available in the Office of Communications
and Public Affairs. You can search the manual's contents online
AAC&U uses Webster's Eleventh New Collegiate Dictionary, available online at
www.m-w.com, as a guide for spelling, hyphenation, word breaks, etc. When
in doubt, check the dictionary. Print and CD-ROM versions of the dictionary are available in the Office of Communications and Public Affairs.
Bartleby.com's usage page, online at www.bartleby.com/usage,
is a good resource for questions about grammar and usage that
Chicago does not cover.
Using This Guide
The style guide you are reading now is based upon Chicago
Manual of Style and Webster's Eleventh New Collegiate
Dictionary. This guide is not meant to be complete in
itself; rather, it is designed to address common style questions
and to clarify policy matters that are not resolved in those
books. The guide is keyed throughout to Chicago (abbreviated
This guide should be adhered to in the running text of all
major AAC&U publications, but may be judiciously adapted
for marketing and meetings publications and elsewhere for
graphic purposes. In such contexts, communications staff may
choose to occasionally depart from Chicago style—for
example, by spelling "twenty-first century" as "21st century."
II. Names and Terms
AAC&U and Other
In the first reference to the association, the is
put before the name in full, followed by the acronym in parentheses:
the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U)
Subsequent references use the acronym (with ampersand):
AAC&U (not "the AAC&U" or "AACU")
When used on their own—even when used to replace proper
names—"association" and like terms are lowercased (CMS
The association was founded in 1915.
The Association of American Colleges and Universities was
known as the Association of American Colleges (AAC) until
1995. Use the old name when referring specifically to work
done by the association prior to the name change. (For information
about citing works published before the name change, see Reference
For organizations, institutions, and companies, "a the
preceding a name, even when part of the official title, is
lowercased in running text" (CMS 8.69).
The meeting was cosponsored by the Carnegie Foundation
for the Advancement of Teaching.
Programs, Initiatives, and
References to programs, initiatives, and projects use initial
capitalization and do not use quotation marks.
The AAC&U initiative Shared Futures: Global Learning
and Social Responsibility was launched in 2002.
For clarity, it is sometimes helpful to rewrite such sentences
so that the name can be set off by commas.
AAC&U's initiative on global issues, Shared Futures:
Global Learning and Social Responsibility, was launched
Subsequent references can be shortened.
The Shared Futures initiative is run by AAC&U's Office
of Diversity, Equity, and Global Initiatives.
Program, initiative, project, and similar terms
are always lowercased—even when they are used to stand
in the place of a program name (CMS 8.74).
Meetings and Institutes
References to meetings, conferences, and institutes are set
in quotation marks when the full title of a single, unique
event is given (CMS 8.69).
"Diversity and Learning: Democracy's Compelling Interest"
was held in 2004.
Use initial capitalization but no quotation marks when referring
to a named series of meetings or institutes.
The next Diversity and Learning conference will be held
They sent a team to the Institute on General Education
She has attended several Network for Academic Renewal conferences.
Note that AAC&U officially refers to Network for Academic
Renewal events as conferences, not meetings.
Generic references to meetings are neither capitalized nor
set in quotation marks (CMS 8.69).
AAC&U's 2005 annual meeting was held in San Francisco.
The institute is highly selective.
References to periodical titles are italicized, as are book
titles (CMS 8.166):
Liberal Education, Diversity Digest, AAC&U News,
the Greater Expectations report
AAC&U treats published papers as books (italicizing the
titles) rather than as essays (the titles of which, like article
titles, are usually set in quotation marks). Names of book
series are capitalized but not italicized (CMS 8.174).
Integrative Learning: Mapping the Terrain is the
latest title in the Academy in Transition series.
"When newspapers and periodicals are mentioned in text, an
initial the, even if part of the official title,
is lowercased (unless it begins a sentence) and not italicized"
the Washington Post, the New York Times Magazine
See also Italics.
When referring to institution names, AAC&U style defaults to the current edition of the Higher Education Directory (available at the front desk and in many AAC&U offices).
Institutions that do not have unique names—King's
College, Westminster College, Central College, Trinity College/University,
and Wheaton College—should be identified by state (in
parentheses) at first reference:
Westminster College (Utah)
Note that, for organizations, institutions, and companies,
"a the preceding a name, even when part of the official
title, is lowercased in running text" (CMS 8.69).
Schools, Boards, Departments,
Schools, divisions, and departments are lowercased except
where the official title is used (CMS 8.84).
The chemistry department is offering a new course this
The Department of English, in coordination with the Division
of Liberal Arts, oversaw the project.
Boards are generally lowercased (CMS 8.67):
the state board of regents, AAC&U's board of directors,
the board of trustees
But should be capitalized when the official title precedes
the full title of the institution to which they are attached:
the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia,
the Board of Directors of the Association of American Colleges
Names of specific courses are capitalized but not set in
quotation marks; generic course references are not capitalized
Professor Jones taught Twentieth-Century African History
again this fall.
On many campuses, composition is a required course.
When a title follows a name or is used in place of a name
in running text, it is generally lowercased.
Nancy Dye, president of Oberlin College, served on AAC&U's
But "titles are capitalized when they immediately precede
a personal name" (CMS 8.18):
President Nancy Dye, Professor John Ramsay, Board Chair
Ronald A. Crutcher
But exceptions may be made for "promotional or ceremonial contexts such as a displayed list of donors in the front matter of a book" (CMS 8.19)
Named professorships are capitalized regardless
of whether they follow or precede the name (CMS 8.27).
Mary F. Smith is the Ronald McDonald Professor of Nutrition.
AAC&U does not use "Dr." or "PhD"
in bylines or in running text when identifying individuals
Racial and Ethnic Groups
"Names of ethnic and national groups are capitalized" (CMS
Arab, Arabian, Arab American
When these terms take the form of compounds, they are never
hyphenated—not even when used as adjectives (see also
African American professor, Native American culture
Do not capitalize "black" or "white" (CMS 8.39).
Words or Figures?
In most nontechnical contexts, whole numbers from one through
one hundred, larger round numbers, and any number beginning
a sentence should be spelled out (CMS 9.2).
The strategic plan includes five priority areas.
More than three thousand people attended the meeting.
For other numbers, figures are used. Use commas with figures
over 999 (except for years).
The membership in the association numbers more than 1,250.
For percentages given in running text, use figures and the word "percent" rather than the % symbol (CMS
Almost 90 percent of the students understood the economic
advantages of a college education.
To date something by referring to a decade, use the full
four-digit date with no apostrophe (CMS 9.34).
The 1980s saw a focus on revising curricula.
Centuries are spelled out (CMS 9.33):
the twenty-first century
"When specific dates are expressed, cardinal numbers are
used" (CMS 9.32).
The conference will begin on March 8.
En dashes and figures are usually used
for inclusive number ranges (CMS 9.58).
The conference will be held March 8–11.
Number ranges beginning at 101 or higher should be abbreviated
according to the table at CMS 9.60. These same rules
apply to year ranges (CMS 9.63):
the 1998–99 academic year, the events of 2002–4,
the winter of 2000–2001, the 2009-10 board of directors.
Note that "if from or between is used before
the first of a pair of numbers, the en dash should not be
used; instead, from should be followed by to
or through, between by and" (CMS
The conference will be held from March 8 to 11.
Use one space, not two, between sentences and after colons
Initials used in names should be separated by a single space
"except when initials are used alone" (CMS 8.4):
E. M. Forster, MLK
Commas and Semicolons
In a series of more than two, use a comma before the and
that ends the series (CMS 6.18).
The provost, the dean, and the president attended.
But, "when items in a series themselves contain internal punctuation, separating the items with semicolons can aid clarity" (CMS 6.58).
The meeting was attended by James Green, a professor of biology; Anne Smith, a professor of chemistry; and Susan Wong, the dean of arts and sciences.
Note that, in all other uses, the segments of text connected
by semicolons must be able to stand on their own as grammatically
Other rules for using commas and semicolons are in CMS
When two or more sentences follow a colon, capitalize the
first word after the colon (CMS 6.61–63).
The article left several questions unanswered: Who would
be responsible for designing the new course? How would the
course address global issues? And how did the college plan
to assess the course's effectiveness?
Otherwise, lowercase follows the colon.
It was decided: the college would add a capstone class.
Quotations are generally preceded by a comma unless they
are "introduced by that, whether, or a similar conjunction"
It was Emerson who wrote, "Blessed are those who have
Was it Stevenson who said that "the cruelest lies are often
told in silence"?
"When a quotation introduced midsentence forms a syntactical part of the sentence, it begins with a lowercase letter even if the original begins with a capital" (CMS 13.14).
Benjamin Franklin admonishes us to "plough deep while
But, "when the quotation has a more remote syntactic relation
to the rest of the sentence, the initial letter remains capitalized."
As Franklin advised, "Plough deep while sluggards sleep."
Quotes within quotes are enclosed in single quotation marks
Quotation marks are omitted in epigraphs (CMS 13.34).
When material is omitted within a quote, three spaced dots
are used to indicate that the ellipsis occurs within a sentence,
four to indicate that one or more sentences have been omitted (CMS 13.51)
Ellipses are not, however, used at the beginning or end of
quotations (CMS 13.50). Interpolations are
set in brackets (CMS 13.57–58).
He said that "the college [would] participate . . . if
it could raise ample funds."
Colons, semicolons, question marks, and exclamation points,
unlike periods and commas, "follow closing quotation marks
unless a question mark or an exclamation point belongs within
the quoted matter" (CMS 6.10).
"What facilities will be needed for the meeting?" she asked.
She stressed the importance of "teaching about other cultures";
indeed, the promotion of global learning was a central goal
of her tenure as dean.
Decisions about whether to run in or set off (block) quotes
are made by the editor and the designer based upon column
width and appearance. Generally speaking, quotes spanning
four lines or more are set off.
Hyphens and Dashes
Hyphens are used in compound words and to
separate characters (CMS 6.76–77). Note that
many compounds that are not hyphenated when used as nouns
or after nouns are hyphenated when used before nouns.
The program stresses service learning; the program has
a service-learning requirement.
My neighborhood is middle class; I live in a middle-class
Terms like "policy making," "decision making" and
"capacity building" are hyphenated only when used as adjectives ("the decision-making process").
A note about hyphens and readability (CMS 7.80): "A hyphen can make for easier reading by showing structure and, often, pronunciation. Words that might otherwise be misread, such as re-creation or co-op, should be hyphenated. Hyphens can also eliminate ambiguity. For example, the hyphen in much-needed clothing shows that the clothing is greatly needed rather than abundant and needed. When no ambiguity could result, as in public welfare administration or graduate student housing, hyphenation is unnecessary."
See CMS 7.77 for further details about hyphenating
compounds; a chart detailing many examples can be found in CMS 7.85. See Open Compounds for a list
of compounds that AAC&U never hyphenates.
En dashes are used primarily
in ranges to designate to (see CMS 6.78;
see also Number Ranges).
The conference will be held March 10–12.
She took the Boston–New York train.
En-dashes also are used "in place of a hyphen in a compound adjective
when one of its elements is an open compound or when two or
more of its elements are open compounds or hyphenated compounds" (CMS 6.80).
a New Hampshire–based business, a high school–community dialogue
Note that using a hyphen in the above examples would create ambiguity.
Em dashes are the most common dashes. They
are used to set off text and frequently take the place of
other punctuation (CMS 6.82–89).
The article—which focuses on diversity programs—challenges
several widely held assumptions.
"To avoid confusion, the em dash should never be used within or immediately following another element set off by an em dash (or pair of em dashes). Use parentheses or commas instead"
Using dashes: To create an en dash in Microsoft
Word, type Ctrl + Num- (the control key and the minus key
on the number keypad). To create an em dash in Microsoft Word,
type Ctrl + Alt + Num- (the control key and the alt key and
the minus key on the number keypad).
Run-in lists (CMS 6.123) frequently
use numerals or letters enclosed in parentheses to mark divisions.
Chicago style specifies (1) that "no punctuation precedes
the first parenthesis if the last word of the introductory
material is a verb or a preposition";
(2) that "if the introductory material forms a grammatically complete sentence, a colon should precede the first parenthesis";
and (3) that "items are separated by commas unless any
of the items require internal commas, in which case all the
items should be separated by semicolons."
A vertical list introduced by a sentence
(CMS 6.124) uses a colon and follows these rules:
- Listed items that follow after the colon do not begin
with a capital letter and do not have closing punctuation
unless they are complete sentences.
- If the listed items are numbered, a period follows the
number and each listed item begins with a capital letter.
- If a listed item runs beyond one line, the second line
aligns with the
first word in the first line after the number or bullet.
In a vertical list that completes a sentence
- no colon is used after the introductory material;
- the first words of the listed items do not begin with
- semicolons are used at the end of each item;
- and is optional at the end of the penultimate
- a period should follow the final item.
Titles of articles and books, as well as names of programs,
initiatives, projects, and meetings, follow the style recommended
in CMS 8.157:
- Always capitalize the first and last words both in titles
and subtitles (but see rule 7), and capitalize all other major words (nouns, pronouns,
verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and some conjunctions—but
see rule 4).
- Lowercase the articles the, a, and an.
- Lowercase prepositions, regardless of length, except
when they are stressed (through in A River
Runs Through It), are used adverbially or adjectivally
(up in Look Up, down in Turn
Down, on in The On Button, etc.), are used
as conjunctions (before in Look Before You
Leap, etc.), or are part of a Latin expression used
adjectivally or adverbially (De Facto, In Vitro,
- Lowercase the conjunctions and, but, for, or, nor.
- Lowercase to not only as a preposition (rule 3) but also as a part of an infinitive (to Run, to Hide, etc.) and lowercase as in any grammatical function.
- Lowercase the second part of a proper
name that would be lowercased in text, such as de or von.
- Lowercase the second part of a species name, such as
fulvescens in Acipenser fulvescens, even if it is the last word in a title or subtitle.
Capitalization of hyphenated terms within titles follows
the rules spelled out at CMS 8.159.
These rules specify that the first hyphenated word is always
capitalized and that subsequent elements are capitalized unless
they are articles, prepositions, or coordinating conjunctions:
Service-Learning Programs in the Twenty-First Century
There is, however, an exception to these hyphenation rules:
(1) if the first element is a prefix or combining form that
could not stand by itself as a word (anti, pre, etc.), the second element is
not capitalized unless it is a proper noun or a proper adjective ("Anti-intellectual Pursuits"). Many examples are listed in CMS 8.159.
Within text, use italics sparingly. Foreign words or terms
should be italicized unless they have become part of standard
English and appear in Webster
See Publications, above, for information
about italicizing the titles of works.
Use "reverse italics"—regular, roman font—for
text that would normally be italicized but appears within
italicized text (CMS 8.171).
Diversity Digest is published by the Association of
American Colleges and Universities.
CMS 14.11 details the style for URLs:
"The 'trailing slash' (/), the last character in a URL pointing to a directory, is part of the URL. Other punctuation marks that follow a URL or other such identifier will readily be perceived as belonging to the surrounding text."
If it is necessary to break a URL or an e-mail address at
the end of a printed line, the break should occur after a
colon, slash, or the symbol @ or before a period or other
punctuation. Hyphens should never be added to a URL at the
line break (CMS 7.42).
AAC&U usually uses the author-date system for references. In
this system, "sources are cited in the text, usually in parentheses,
by the author's last (family) name, the publication date of
the work cited, and a page number if needed" (CMS
15.5). No comma is used between the name and the date, but
a comma does separate date and page number. Et al.
is used for text citations of works with more than three authors.
Text citations "are usually placed just before a mark of
punctuation" (CMS 15.24)—often in the middle
of the sentence, following the author's name or a description
of the work. Text citations for block quotes follow after
the closing punctuation.
Citations need only include reference information that is
not already included in the sentence.
The Court's decision is summarized in Perspectives
on Justice (Jordan et al. 1979).
Rosenberg (1962) wrote about three epidemics in The
As Peter Ewell points out (2004, 5), "it is often claimed
that the ends of general education . . . are excruciatingly
difficult to describe and assess."
Full citation details appear in the reference list, which
is titled "References" (not "Works Cited").
Author-date reference lists are alphabetized and, when more
than one work by the same author is cited, ordered chronologically
(CMS 15.17). In reference lists, use forms of authors' names as they appear on the title page or at the head of an article or chapter (CMS 15.12). To assist alphabetization, middle initials should be given whenever known (CMS 14.72)
Following are a few examples of proper style for citing commonly
encountered kinds of sources.
Books: covered in CMS 14.68–166 and 15.32–42
Association of American Colleges and Universities. 2002.
A New Vision for Learning as a Nation
College. Washington, DC: Association of American
Here, the association's name is given in full twice,
once as author and once as publisher (CMS 14.92, 15.36).
Note that the Association of American Colleges and Universities
was formerly known as the Association of American Colleges.
When referring to works published by the association before
the name change, use "the name at the time of publication" (CMS 14.139).
Following is another example of a book reference:
Walker, Janice R., and Todd W. Taylor. 1998. The Columbia
Guide to Online Style. New York: Columbia
In this example, note that the first author's name is followed
by a comma, and that only the first author's name is inverted
(CMS 15.16). As is the case here,
no state needs to be indicated after the city of publication
when the state is widely known and unlikely to be confused
with another city of the same name (CMS 14.136).
Contributions to multiauthor books: covered
in CMS 14.112 and 15.9
Schultheiss, Katrin. 2001. "Integrating Science into Gender and
Studies Programs." In Gender, Science, and the
Curriculum: Building Two-Way Streets,
edited by Caryn McTighe Musil, 47–54. Washington, DC:
Association of American Colleges and Universities.
Note that the ampersand
in the title is spelled out as and (CMS
Journals: covered in CMS 14.175–198 and 15.43–47
Smith, Paul. 2004. "Exploring Reality: Cultural Studies and
Thinking." Liberal Education 90 (3): 26–31.
The volume number follows after
the journal title without punctuation, and the issue number
or season is set in parentheses (CMS 15.46). (Note
that AAC&U uses numbers instead of seasons in citations
of journals that have both an issue number and a season.)
References to an entire issue of a journal that is devoted
to a special theme use the editor's name in place of the author's ( use ed., and use eds. for more than one editor, CMS 15.9) and the theme in place of the article title (CMS 14.187):
Carey, Shelley, ed. 2005. "Science and Engaged Learning."
Review 7, no. 2.
Electronic journals: covered in CMS
O'Connor, Noreen. 2004. "Finding a Way: Parenting in Graduate
and Beyond." On Campus with Women 33 (2),
The URLs for electronic citations follow after the regular
journal reference. Because the example above does not exist in a print
edition, no page numbers are given. For print journals that
also exist online, a colon followed by the page numbers of the article and a
period should precede the URL (CMS 1.76).
Lectures and presentations: covered in CMS
Shulman, Lee. 2005. "Pedagogies of Uncertainty." Paper
presented at the annual meeting of the Association
Colleges and Universities, San Francisco.
The author, date, and title are handled like an article,
with information about the paper's occasion—sponsorship
Blogs: covered in CMS 14.246
Humphreys, Debra. 2010. "Raising the Bar on College
Completion and Quality: Can We Focus on Both Goals
at Once?" Liberal Education Nation (blog).
Footnotes and Endnotes
Manuscripts that use the author-date reference style should include footnotes and endnotes solely for the purpose
of explanation or elaboration—never for citation. Decisions
about using notes are left to the discretion of the editor.
For additional information about footnotes and endnotes, see
VI. Word Lists
Troublesome Words and Expressions
See CMS 5.220 for a larger list.
9/11: our standard usage, although lengthier
phrases ("the events of September 11, 2001") can be used according
to the editor's discretion (see CMS 9.36)
advisor: not adviser
African American, Arab American, Asian American,
etc.: never hyphenated (see Open
alumni: in common usage, refers to both
men and women, but some authors may prefer to use alumni
and alumnae (since the Latin terms are inflected for
gender) to avoid potential bias; decisions about the use of
this term may be left to the author's discretion
a.m., p.m.: with periods; using small capitals
without periods is also acceptable (see CMS 9.38)
black: lowercased, even when referring to
blog: preferred over the more formal Web log
cocurricular: not hyphenated; similarly,
college-ready: always hyphenated
refers to media and public relations fields and should only
be used in that context
comprise/compose: from CMS 5.220:
"To comprise is 'to be made up of, to include'
('the whole comprises the parts'). To compose is
'to make up, to form the substance of something' ('the parts
compose the whole'). The phrase comprised of . .
. is poor usage."
coursework: one word
curriculum/curricula: curriculum is singular,
curricular: is an adjective, while "curriculum" is the noun. “Curricular (not curriculum) redesign efforts may be stymied by the additional approval layer of a central bureaucracy.”
data: data is plural—"the data show,"
not "the data shows"
diverse: frequently misused to designate
racial and ethnic minorities; note that only an entity that
consists of different elements can really be "diverse" (a
student population or a faculty group can be diverse, but
not individual students or faculty members)
eBooks , e-books: “eBooks” is the spelling of AAC&U’s line of electronic publications, and that spelling should be used when referring to these titles; when referring to electronic publications in general, the spelling “e-books” is preferred.
e-portfolio: do not used stylized spellings
(such as ePortfolio) except when the term occurs in the title
of a specific program
Essential Learning Outcomes: note initial capitals
faculty: can be used as shorthand for faculty
members but not for a faculty member
historically black colleges and universities, traditionally
white colleges and universities, etc.: lowercased
historic, historical, etc.: preceded by
a, not an
Internet: note initial capital
Liberal Education and America's Promise (LEAP) initiative:
should be referred to as an initiative, not as a campaign.
lifelong: one word, not hyphenated
Lumina Foundation: no "the" preceding the title of the organization
Caryn McTighe Musil: always use full middle
name on first reference
metarubric: one word, not hyphenated
Network for Academic Renewal conference: use
conference, not meeting, when formally referring
to the conference series (whenever the term is preceded by
Network or Network for Academic Renewal)
New Academy: capitalized (when used in the
context of Greater Expectations)
nonprofit: not hyphenated
nontenured: not hyphenated; but a hyphen is used when "non" modifies a compound—non-tenure-eligible, non-tenure-track
online: not hyphenated
percent: do not use % in running, nontechnical
PhD, MA, etc.: do not use periods in degree
abbreviations (CMS 10.20)
podcast: one word, lowercased
policy maker: two words
postsecondary: not hyphenated
preprofessional: not hyphenated
professoriate: not professoriat
quality: not to be used as an adjective, as in a quality education.
Carol Geary Schneider: always use full middle
name on first reference
service learning: open (not hyphenated)
except before a noun (service-learning experience)
that/which: from CMS 5.220: "That
is used restrictively to narrow a category or identify a particular
item being talked about ('any building that is taller must
be outside the state'); which is used nonrestrictively—not
to narrow a class or identify a particular item but to add
something about an item already identified ('alongside the
officer trotted a toy poodle, which is hardly a typical police
dog'). Which should be used restrictively only when
it is preceded by a preposition ('the situation in which we
find ourselves'). Otherwise it is almost always preceded by
a comma, a parenthesis, or a dash."
theater: standard American spelling is theater,
not theatre; but, the British spelling should be
retained when it appears in a formal name (such as the name
of a specific theater)
toward, backward, etc.: not towards or backwards
(standard American usage omits the final s)
US: no space; also do not use periods in USA. Use US only as an adjective, as in "the US education system." As a noun, spell out "United States" (CMS 10.33)
VALUE rubrics: References to the VALUE rubrics collectively, or to rubrics generically, should be lowercased; however, capitalize the titles of specific rubrics (e.g.. the Critical Thinking VALUE Rubric).
webcast: one word
web page: two words (CMS 7.76)
website: one word (CMS 7.76).
Use web page or web pages instead of website when referring to a single page or a part of a website (AAC&U has a website, but the annual meeting has
white: lower case, even when used as a racial
who/whom: from CMS 5.202: "Who
is a nominative pronoun used as 1) the subject of a finite
verb ('it was Jim who brought the coffee today'), or 2) a
predicate nominative when it follows a linking verb ('that's
who'). Whom is an objective pronoun that may appear
as 1) the object of a verb ('I learned nothing about the man
whom I saw'), or 2) the object of a preposition ('the woman
to whom I owe my life')."
World Wide Web: note initial capitals
AAC&U generally follows CMS guidelines (7.85)
for hyphenating compounds when they precede nouns (see Hyphens
and Dashes). However, we opt never to hyphenate some of
the compounds with which our audience is particularly familiar—the
names of disciplines, educational terms, etc.—because
there is little risk of confusion. Following is a partial
list of compounds that should always be left open.
Split infinitives ought to be avoided if possible.
An infinitive is the tenseless form of a verb preceded by to, such as to dismiss or to modify. Splitting the infinitive is placing one or more words between to and the verb, such as to summarily dismiss or to unwisely modify.
If a split is easily fixed by putting the adverb at the end of the phrase and the meaning remains the same, then avoiding the split is the best course. If, however, the adverb bears the emphasis in a phrase (to boldly go or to strongly favor), then leave the split infinitive alone.
Recasting a sentence just to eliminate a split infinitive or avoid splitting the infinitive can alter its nuance or meaning—for instance, it’s best to always get up early (always modifies get up) is not quite the same as it’s always best to get up early (always modifies best). Moreover, sometimes “fixing” a split infinitive makes the sentence sound unnatural, as in it’s best to get up early always.