All bulletins will follow the Duke Language Usage Guide and the subsequent Inclusive Language Guide (linked on the same page), except in the specific cases detailed below.

The official dictionary of the bulletin is Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.

In general, it is not necessary to edit existing bulletin text for style. The focus of edits should be content updates in most cases.

Formatting Guidelines

Bold, Italics, and Underline
  • Use italics to set off the titles of major or freestanding works such as books, journals, movies, and paintings.
  • Use quotation marks for subsections of larger works—including chapter and article titles.
  • Use formatting for sparingly. Seldom should as much as a sentence be italicized for emphasis, and never a whole passage.

There are three levels of headers: H1, H2, and H3.

Screenshot of Header levels 1, 2, and 3 in Coursedog.
  • H1 should only be used at the top of the page or subpage.
  • Headers should be used in descending order.
  • All headers should be unbolded.

Linked text and written out URLs are both acceptable. Remove both the protocol/scheme (https://www.) and the ending forward slash.

Screenshot of sample text in the bulletin with hyperlinks formatted as described in the style guide.

All lists (except in narrative format) should be formatted as lists by highlighting the text and selecting either the bulleted or numerical option.

Correctly formatted list

Screenshot of a correctly formatted list in Coursedog.

Incorrectly formatted list

Screenshot of an incorrectly formatted list in Coursedog.

Items in a list should be parallel (e.g., all complete sentences, all begin with a verb).

Numbered lists should be used to indicate the order in which tasks should be done, to suggest chronology or relative importance among the items, or to facilitate text references. Otherwise, use bullets or narrative text. Where similar lists are fairly close together, consistent treatment is essential.


Always single space between sentences.

Always one return between paragraphs.

Language Guidelines

Academic degrees

No periods.

  • PhD, BA, MA

Spelled-out terms, often capitalized in institutional settings, should be lowercased in normal prose. A good working distinction is between running text (lowercased) and display copy (may be capped).

  • a master’s degree
  • bachelor of arts

Capitalize proper names of programs, even in running text.

  • Master of International Development Policy Program
Academic subjects

Academic subjects are not capitalized unless they form part of a department name or an official course name or are themselves proper nouns (e.g., English, Latin).

  • They have introduced a course in gender studies.
  • He is majoring in comparative literature.
  • Jones is chair of the Committee on Comparative Literature.
Course credits

When identifying the amount of credits of coursework a student is taking or a class is worth, in most cases use the numeral and a decimal point, followed by the term “course credit/s.”*

  • 5.5 course credits
  • A normal load is 4.0 course credits.
  • Biology 499 yields 2.0 course credits.

However, the number can be spelled out when used as an adjective.

  • The student is taking a two-credit course.
  • The student is taking a half-credit course.
Course titles

The subject and course number are always required. Either the formal subject name or subject code may be used, as long as it is correct and consistent.

  • Environment 101 or ENVIRON 101 (not ENV 101)

The course title can also be listed, but isn’t required. If the course title is listed with the subject and number, list the title of the course in parentheses after the subject and course number.

  • Environment 101 (Introduction to Environmental Sciences and Policy)

Official names of courses of study are capitalized.

  • I am signing up for Archaeology 101.
  • His ballroom dancing classes have failed to civilize him.

Letters used to denote grades are usually capitalized and set in roman type. No apostrophe is required in the plural.

  • She finished with three As, one B, and two Cs.

Only capitalize name of season when it is directly followed by the year.

  • Fall 2013
  • fall semester
  • fall term
  • fall session
  • Summer Session 1
  • Summer Session 2
  • summer session

 *Per Inge Walther and Norman Keul on 1/30/14

Advanced Placement credit

Always capitalize Advanced Placement and when abbreviating, use “AP credit.”*

Areas of Knowledge & Modes of Inquiry

Always capitalize.*

Community Standard

Duke's official standard of conduct and honor code. Use instead of Honor Code, unless a professional school has their own Honor Code separate from Duke’s Community Standard. See Honor Code.
Always capitalize.*


Not course work

Course credit

Always use instead of “semester course credit,” “semester hour,” or any other variation.*

Dean’s List with Distinction

Always capitalize. Use slash instead of dash.*

First-year student

Preferred over “freshman.”

Graduation with Distinction
Health care

Two words. When used at the start of a sentence, only the first word is capitalized (i.e., Health care, not Health Care).

Honor Code

Incorrect. Correct term is Community Standard, unless otherwise noted here.*
Exceptions are the Nicholas School of the Environment and the Sanford School of Public Policy, which have their own Honor Code.


One word, no hyphen


One word, no hyphen


Used by The Graduate School, Engineering Management, Nicholas School of the Environment, and Sanford School of Public Policy. Always capitalize.*


Used for undergraduates and undergraduate courses. Always capitalize.


One word, no hyphen

 *Per Inge Walther and Norman Keul on 1/30/14

  • Duke Divinity School (or Divinity School)
  • The Fuqua School of Business
  • The Graduate School
  • Duke University School of Law (or Duke Law School or Duke Law)
  • School of Medicine
  • Nicholas School of the Environment
  • Duke University School of Nursing
  • Pratt School of Engineering
  • Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy or Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University (the Sanford School or the school on second reference)
  • Trinity College of Arts & Sciences (with ampersand, not “and”)

Schools are listed alphabetically by their namesake or, if none, by their field of study (i.e., Divinity, Fuqua, Graduate, Law, Medicine, Nicholas, Nursing, Pratt, Sanford, Trinity).

Month and day

When specific dates are expressed, cardinal numbers are used, although these may be pronounced as ordinals.

  • Applications for the scholarship are due on March 15, 2024.

When a day is mentioned without the month or year, the number is usually spelled out in ordinal form.

  • Classes start on January 10. By the twenty-fourth, students must be enrolled in four units.

Spell out whole numbers or use numerals. Use consistently. Do not use both.

  • Seven or 7 but not seven (7)
Oxford comma

Duke Bulletins uses the Oxford comma. A commas is placed before the conjunction (and, or) in a series of three or more items.

  • Sophomores, juniors, and seniors may apply.

The word percent or the symbol % may be used.

  • four percent or 4%
Phone numbers
  • (919) 681-5832
Titles and offices

Civil, military, religious, and professional titles are capitalized when they immediately precede a personal name. Titles are lowercased when following a name or used in place of a name.

  • President Lincoln; the president
  • General Bradley; the general
US states and territories

The names of states can be spelled out or shortened to the two-letter abbreviation.

  • North Carolina or NC
Omit the following
  • He/She, his or her, or similar variations
    • Use they or their instead
  • Double spaces between sentences
  • Note: or Important:
  • Please