The following list includes easily confused words as well as the preferred spelling and capitalization for words that are commonly used in Anoka-Ramsey copy. For words not included here, consult a good dictionary. Typically, the preferred, US (as opposed to British Commonwealth) spelling is listed first when there is more than one correct spelling. (Note that if you are quoting from material published in a country that uses the "British" spelling — for example, Canada — you may not change the spelling to the US preference. Leave the u in colour and the "extra" l in traveller.)
For lists of additional words that fall into the easily confused or misused categories, consult The New York Public Library Writer's Guide to Style and Usage or other current style guides.
One, final comment about words: Bigger words aren't always better than shorter words, so use the shortest correct word to help ensure clarity of meaning.
Advisor. Not adviser. (An Anoka-Ramsey Community College preference . . . in spite of being the British Commonwealth rather than the US spelling. Another such exception is theatre.)
Alum. Abbreviation for alumnus or alumna. Avoid this abbreviation in formal copy.
Alumna. Singular for female graduate; alumnae is the plural when referring to only female graduates.
Jennifer Jones is an alumna of Anoka-Ramsey Community College. The alumnae of Smith College include some notable women.
Alumni. Plural for combination of male and female graduates or male graduates.
The alumni attending the celebration included several recent graduates.
Alumnus.Singular for male graduate.
Jeffrey Jones is an alumnus of Anoka-Ramsey Community College.
Assure/Ensure/Insure Assure is a verb used to convey the sense of reassuring someone of something. Ensure is a verb that means "to make sure that." Insure is a verb reserved for use with reference to the insurance business.
I assured her that we would ensure that she was insured with our company.
Campuswide. One word.
Chair. Preferred over chairman or chairperson.
Co-. Use a hyphen when forming nouns, adjectives, and verbs that indicate occupation or status; do not hyphenate in other combinations: co-author, co-worker, coeducational, cocurricular, cooperate.
College. Used after the first reference to Anoka-Ramsey Community College,. All subsequent references should be to the college. Not capitalized.
College-wide. Written as one word, not hyphenated. Follows Minnesota State copy.
Commencement. Capitalized only when referring to a specific one.
Participants in the May 1999 Commencement enjoyed sunny skies.
Compose/Comprise/Constitute. Compose means to create or put together. Comprise means to be made up of. "Comprised of" is redundant. Constitute means to be the elements of and may work best when neither compose nor comprise seem to fit.
The United States comprises 50 states. The United States is composed of 50 states. Fifty States constitute the United States of America.
Course Work. Two words
Cum laude. Translates as "with distinction." No italic for this and other commonly used Latin terms. (If it's in Webster's or another standard dictionary, it's considered common enough to not require italics.)
Cyber. Forms closed words, as in cyberspace.
Data. A plural noun, although several recent style guide revisions now consider it a collective noun—i.e., it represents a unit—that can take a singular verb. Bowing to The New York Times Style Manual, the Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual, Wired Style, and Webster's, data may be used as either plural or singular.
The data shows an increase in enrollment for fall 2000. The data are conclusive, Professor Zion Tific said at last week's news conference.
Database. One word.
Decision making No hyphen when used as a noun. Hyphenated only when used as an adjective immediately before a noun.
Decision making is a primary responsibility of department chairs. The decision-making process is rarely simple.
Department, the. Not capitalized.
Disc. Use this spelling for the (usually) round kind of disc that serves as a "read only" medium: compact disc, laserdisc, videodisc.
Disk Use this spelling for the (usually) portable, (usually) square medium used for storing computer and other digital data: floppy disk. One way some style guides distinguish between the two spellings is to restrict disk to a medium on which the data can be altered as well as read.
Division, the. Not capitalized.
Email. Capitalize the e only when the term appears at the beginning of a sentence, in a heading, or on a form where other entries (such as Address, Phone) are capitalized.
Emeritus, Emerita. Honorary title for retired professor: emeritus for male professors, emerita for female professors.
Entitled/Titled. Entitled means to have a right to something; titled refers to the name of something.
Every day/Everyday. Every day is a noun; everyday is an adjective.
Traffic jams are becoming an everyday occurrence on Anoka-Ramsey bike paths. Every day bikers complain about the increase in traffic volume.
Faculty. A collective noun referring to an institution's entire teaching staff. It takes a singular verb. To refer to an individual who is part of a faculty, faculty member is preferred for clarity.
The faculty voted to develop a mentoring program. Ten faculty members volunteered to serve as mentors.
Fax. The abbreviation for facsimile. The noun is not capitalized except when it appears on a form where other headings(Address, Phone, Fax, E-mail) are capitalized.
Federal. No capital except when the term refers to an architectural style or is part of a formal name: the federal government, Federal Express, the Federal Housing Administration.
Female/Woman.Female can be an adjective or a noun. Woman is a noun only. For clarity, careful writers use female as an adjective only and woman as a noun only.
The study showed that the increase in female professors was credited by female students as making a positive difference in their attitude toward the major. The department now has three women and nine men.
Full time. Hyphenate only when used as an adjective immediately before a noun.
Larry is a full-time student. Leroy works full time in the admissions office.
Fundraising. According to Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition, first preference now is one word, no hyphen.
Gender. Used to indicate psychological or sociological elements of a person's identity. Unlike sex, which can be used to describe other living beings, gender is appropriate only with reference to humans. Biological sex and psychological gender may be different. One would speak of gender role distinctions as deriving from sex stereotyping.
GPA. Need not be spelled out on first use.
Gray. Rather than grey, which is the British Commonwealth preference. (Unless, of course, Grey is part of a proper noun.)
High tech. An adjective that has become so ubiquitous that it no longer needs the hyphen.
Home page. Two words
In-house. Hyphenate when it immediately precedes a noun.
Internet. The worldwide research network of computers communicating in a common language — TCP-IP — over telephone or fiber-optic lines. A generic term for a network of connected networks. Not capitalized.
Intranet. No capitalization for a private or in-house network.
Its/it's. Its is the possessive pronoun (remember: his, hers, its); it's is the contraction of "it is."
It's possible that the department will offer additional sections of its most popular courses.
Magna cum laude. Translates as "with great distinction." No italics.
Media A plural noun. -- The media have begun to cover educational issues more frequently.
Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system – Should be referred to as "Minnesota State"
More than/over. Over generally refers to spatial relationships. More than is preferred when quantifying something. But use over when referring to an amount of something that cannot easily be counted.
More than 50 students attended the special study session.
Nontraditional students are over 25.
Over 30 percent of the construction has been completed.
Non-. Most words beginning with non do not use a hyphen: nondegree, nonmajor, nonlegal, nonrefundable, nonresident. Exceptions include cases where the following word is a proper noun and when the resulting word would be unclear or confusing: e.g., non-tenure track.
Off campus (preposition + noun)/ off-campus (adjective; hyphenated when it immediately precedes a noun)
The meeting will be held off campus.
Students are searching for off-campus housing.
on campus (preposition + noun)
The meeting will be held on campus.
on-campus (adj) Hyphenated when it immediately precedes a noun/
First-year students are assigned on-campus housing.
Online. (adj, adv)
The revised online version of this guide is scheduled for summer 2002.
When it goes live, you'll be able to look for additions and updates online.
Onscreen (adj)/On screen (adv)
Shirley found the onscreen instructions helpful.
Proofreaders tend to miss more errors when they proof on screen than when they use hard copy.
Part time. Hyphenate only when used as an adjective immediately before a noun.
Larry works in the office part time. Leroy is a part-time landscape architect.
Post-. Most words formed with the post prefix are styled without a hyphen, unless the word begins with a capital or unless confusion would result: postdoctoral, postbaccalaureate, postgraduate, post-World War II.
Pre-. Most words formed with the pre prefix are styled without a hyphen; do not hyphenate preprofessional, preadmission, preeducation, prelaw, premedicine, prepharmacy.
Problem solving. No hyphen when used as a noun. Hyphenate only when used as an adjective before a noun.
Problem solving can be learned only when an individual recognizes the value of problem-solving skills.
Re- In general, use a hyphen in compounds beginning with re only if the word following the re prefix begins with an e or if confusion would result: re-elect, re-establish, redo, rewrite, recover/re-cover.
SAT. Never spell out or use periods. It no longer is an acronym. It does not refer to anything except itself.
Since Sometimes used as a synonym for because, which is acceptable; however, for formal writing, careful writers reserve since when time, rather than causality, is implied.
Students have learned several new laboratory procedures since the semester began.
Statewide. One word.
Student-athlete. Always hyphenate, whether used as a noun or adjective.
Summa cum laude. Translates as "with highest distinction." No italics.
System, the Used after the first reference to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System. All subsequent references should be to the system. Not capitalized.
Theatre. Anoka-Ramsey Community College preferred spelling.
Titled/Entitled. Entitled means to have a right to something; titled refers to the name of something.
toward Not towards, which is the British Commonwealth form.
U.S. Use as an adjective only; spell out United States when used as a noun.
Veterans Services. Note there are no apostrophes.
Vice Chancellor. See Capitalization in the Style Guideline for more information.
Vice President See Capitalization in the Style Guideline for more information.
Wait list/Wait-list Two words when used as a noun, hyphenated as a word or adjective.
Web. The Shortened form of World Wide Web. Do not capitalize web when it serves as an adjective. Do capitalize Web when used as a noun (see World Wide Web Style for examples and more information).
Web site. Two words. Capitalize Web.
Work-study Always hyphenate, whether used as a noun or an adjective.