Grammar and Style Guide for the Columbia Law School Communications Office
Updated Sept. 23, 2015
House Style: The Office of Communications and Public Affairs uses the Associated Press Stylebook as its default style guide. For nearly all matters concerning grammar, spelling, punctuation, abbreviation, usage, titles, and related content, this office follows the rules set forth in that book. In some cases, though, the office’s text guidelines diverge from the AP Stylebook due to the nature of the publications we produce and the unique qualities of those who will be reading our materials. In other instances, we may have a rule that differs from the AP Stylebook to be more clear or consistent. This style guide shows the comparison between our house style and the AP Stylebook. This style guide will be updated as needed.
Columbia Law School
Although the AP Stylebook states that you should only capitalize titles when part of a proper name, we make an exception to this rule for references to Columbia Law School. Here is an example:
Professor Bernard E. Harcourt came to the Law School in 2014.
When referring to any other law school without using its proper noun title, law school is not capitalized.
Use Columbia Law School or the Law School, never use CLS.
On first reference, use a professor’s first name, middle initial, and last name. The professor’s name should be followed by his or her full title if a formal title exists. This should be done as long as it doesn't interrupt or bog down the sentence. When the full title is not listed on first reference, or if the professor doesn't have a formal title, the title Professor should be used before the name. The professor’s full title—if applicable—should be worked into the content in a later reference. Below are some examples.
The first reference of a professor with a formal title:
Jane C. Ginsburg, the Morton L. Janklow Professor of Literary and Artistic Property Law, spoke on the panel.
The first reference of a professor without a formal title:
Professor Suzanne B. Goldberg spoke on the panel.
For multiple references of a professor within the same content or page:
Jane C. Ginsburg, the Morton L. Janklow Professor of Literary and Artistic Property Law, spoke on the panel. Ginsburg addressed emerging trends in copyright law reform.
Include professors' graduation year on first reference if they are Columbia Law School alumni:
Gerard E. Lynch ’75
For the Columbia Law School Magazine only, bold the names of professors, administrators, and Columbia University professors from different schools on first reference:
Professor Suzanne B. Goldberg spoke on the panel.
The Law School defines the term adjunct professor with precision. Only those meeting its definition should be referred to as such. To be designated as an adjunct professor, an instructor must either:
- Serve as a judge.
- Be a current or former full-time academic.
- Be grandfathered into the title.
Adjunct professors have their titles listed under the website's Adjunct Faculty section, as Adjunct Professor of Law. If you are unsure whether a faculty member should or should not be given the adjunct professor title on a page, please contact the Dean's Office to verify the title of the faculty member.
Law School Dean
Refer to the dean by her complete title on first reference:
Gillian Lester, Dean and the Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law, gave the keynote address.
If the dean’s full title is difficult to use in the first reference, it should be included in a later reference.
For every reference of the dean, use Dean before her name. This is a distinction from subsequent references of professors:
At the event, Dean Lester presented the award.
For ongoing references of the dean within the same content, Dean Lester is preferred over the more informal “the dean.”
Judges and Supreme Court Justices
Use the full title for judges and Supreme Court justices. Last names only should be used on subsequent mentions:
Judge Priscilla Owen of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals visited the Law School. Owen practiced commercial litigation at Andrews & Kurth.
NOTE: Those sitting on any supreme court use the title Justice, not Judge. This is the case even if the supreme court functions as a lower court in the relevant state’s system.
Lectures, Conferences, and Courses
Place lecture titles in quotes:
Professor Bernard E. Harcourt hosted a talk titled “Michel Foucault: The Late Lectures.”
Conferences, panels, speakers’ series, and symposiums should also be placed in quotes and are capitalized only when used as formal titles and proper nouns. Do not capitalize words like annual meeting:
Smith attended a conference on human rights at Kentucky Law School.
Smith attended the third annual “Assessing Human Rights in a Quickly Globalizing World” speaker series.
Capitalize courses only when used as a proper noun. Do not use quotes:
Professor Jeffrey N. Gordon’s course Comparative Corporate Governance: A Dynamic Perspective was held on Thursday.
Professor Jeffrey N. Gordon’s course on corporate governance is offered once a semester.
Externships should be treated the same way as course names. Externships consist of a seminar course and related fieldwork. In some cases, externships require an application. For more clarification on externships, visit the Social Justice Initiatives externship page.
J.D. is a degree earned after three years of law school.
LL.M. is a degree earned after one year of study after a J.D. or equivalent.
J.S.D. is a legal degree above an LL.M. It requires extra years of study. It is usually done by academics.
LL.B. is the equivalent to a J.D. degree. It was given during the Law School’s yesteryear.
M.C.L. is the equivalent to an LL.M. degree. It was given during the Law School’s yesteryear .
For all Law School alumni, place an apostrophe and two-digit graduation year one space after the name of the person on first reference. To signify a graduation year that is more than 99 years old, use a four-digit number. Do not use commas to separate the year from the name. If alumni received degrees other than a J.D., specify the degree in each case. Here are some examples:
Michael Porter ’68 will present the award.
Gerald Rogers 1906 was honored at the ceremony.
Stacey Ericsson ’99 LL.M. specializes in patent litigation.
Refer to classes with the full, four-digit year:
The Class of 1958 celebrated its 50th reunion.
MAGAZINE ONLY: Put names and class years of alumni in bold on first reference. Subsequent references are plain text.
Larissa Bergen ’88 began her career at Whitaker & Johns.
Michael I. Sovern and Jack Greenberg both received LL.B. degrees, however, they have both approved using their graduation years without listing the LL.B. degrees afterward.
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison funds Columbia Law School’s moot court program. The firm’s name is to be used when referring to the program generally and when referencing various moot court competitions that fall under the umbrella of the program. These include The Harlan Fiske Stone Moot Court final, the first-year Foundation Moot Court, the American Intellectual Property Law Associate Moot Court, the Environmental Law Moot Court, the Frederick Douglass Moot Court, the Latino/a Law Students Association Moot Court, and the Native American Law Students Association Moot Court. Here are some examples of how moot court programs should be written out:
The Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison Moot Court Program.
The Frederick Douglass Moot Court competition.
Law School’s Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison Moot Court Program.
References in Prose
An editor in a publication reference is always listed after the publication:
Professor Jones published Grecian Law (James Smith and Karl Black, eds.).
When distinguishing an editor and publisher, use a semicolon between their names:
(James Smith, ed.; Knopf)
Italics vs. Quotation Marks
All full-length composition titles, such as books, magazines, newspapers, albums, TV shows, titles of plays, works of art, among others, should be placed in italics:
He enjoyed Heart of Darkness by Conrad.
She read a piece on income tax policy in The Wall Street Journal.
He lists Springsteen’s Born to Run among his favorites.
All compositions that are portions or subsets of larger artistic works, including song titles, journal articles, poems from a collection, among others, should be placed in quotes:
Elsa Jones published “Law and the Courts” in the Harvard Law Journal.
Larry Williams wrote a chapter called “Public International Law” that appeared in Perspectives on International Law (Oxford University Press, 2000).
“Let it Be” was Gunther’s favorite song.
Use the serial comma:
Joe, Bill, and Mike went to law school. (Do not use: Joe, Bill and Mike went to law school.)
Hyphens and Dashes
Use the hyphen to join compound words that modify a noun:
The group offers legal services to low-income residents.
Use the en dash to indicate duration of time in lists and for scenarios calling for compound word adjectives:
New York–born actress
New York City–based writer
Use the em dash without a space on either side to set off a phrase.
More than 2,000 entries—including more than 50 new ones—appear in this edition.
When using ellipses in a sentence, do not use the quick key. Each period in the three- or four-period string should be preceded by a space and should be typed manually.
The group offers legal services . . . to the homeless.
Avoid unnecessary use of exclamation points in all text. Use only when absolutely necessary to show a high degree of surprise, incredulity, or other strong emotion.
We use the word says not said in all instances except where it doesn’t make sense.
“Reunions are my favorite events each year,” says Sylvester DeGraffe.
We use (left to right), not (l to r) when listing names in a photo caption.
If it’s a photo with a lot of names, we use a comma to describe place:
(Third row, left to right) Joe Smith, Frank Ellis, Susan Harris, and Wendy Johnson
If describing multiple rows, use a semicolon between each, and state (left to right) only once:
(First row, left to right) Joe Smith, Frank Ellis, Susan Harris, and Wendy Johnson; (second row) Lisa Altman, Jamie Sanders, Robert Masters
Use a period at the end of a caption only if it is a complete sentence:
Carla Peters gave the opening address at the Morrison Dinner.
(Left to right) Bernard E. Harcourt, Adam Thompson, and Patti Lewis
Use alumni years in photo captions even if had been used previously within the text.
MAGAZINE ONLY: When professors’ names are used in pull quotes, the magazine treats the names as a first reference relative to the pull quote. Thus, the title Professor or Dean should precede the relevant individual’s name.
Internet, not internet
email, not e-mail or E-mail
online, not on-line
web, not Web
website, not Web site
multimedia, not multi-media
When used as verbs, use log off and log on with no hyphens. When those terms are used as nouns, they are written as one word rather than two, such as logoff and logon.
Use a hyphen for African-American, Asian-American, etc., whether used as adjectives or as nouns. For Latin American, do not use a hyphen.
Alumni, not alum or alums.
Graduate, not grad.
The Gender & Sexuality Law Program. Use the ampersand and not the word and.
Double degree programs, not double-degree programs.
First-year, second-year, and third-year students, not 1Ls, 2Ls, or 3Ls.
Advisers, not advisors. Advisor should only be applied in professional titles that use this spelling.
Vice president, not vice-president.
Résumé, not resume.
al-Qaeda, not Al Qaeda.
Do not use a comma between someone’s name and Jr. The only three exceptions are John G. Roberts, Jr., Eric H. Holder, Jr., and Donald B. Verrilli, Jr.
The use of part time or part-time depends on the context within the sentence. The differences are shown below:
He works part time.
She is a part-time clerk.
Use past, not last unless it really is last:
In the past year, he has worked for Smith & Green.
He finished in last place in the moot court competition.
Titled, not entitled. This is the case except when used to mean to have a claim to something:
Professor Joseph Smith wrote an article titled “Maritime Law in Britain.”
She said she was entitled to a higher grade.
For news and release items containing boilerplate language, remove boilerplate from the piece when posting stories to non-news web pages or when the content is used in other non-news settings.
Lawrence A. Collins ’65 LL.M., Lord Collins of Mapesbury, Supreme Court of the United Kingdom is the correct way to refer to him.
9/11 is used when referring to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
U.S. Supreme Court or Supreme Court of the United States, not United States Supreme Court.
For phone numbers, use hyphens, not periods. Do not use parenthesis around the area code. So: 212-854-2680. With respect to extensions, use just an x followed by the extension number, such as 212-854-2680 x120.
In event, lecture, and speech titles created by the department, common prepositions and articles (with, the, an, to, of, etc.) should be lowercased unless used at the beginning of said title. This rule applies even if the relevant word contains more than three letters.