The University of Colorado recognizes the importance of grammatical consistency and accuracy throughout its web presence and in print publications. The university uses Associate Press Style in all publications, however there are rules not covered in AP that pertain specifically to the university.

To present a consistent and high-quality standard of writing that appropriately reflects the university’s standard of excellence, this guide addresses university-related style issues, common errors and common style.

The system style guide, published by University Relations in the Office of the President, is intended to serve as an editorial guideline for language use pertaining to the university and its constituents.

AP Style changes for 2021


  • A new entry recommends gender-neutral language when possible. We also say: “Balance these aims with common sense, respect for the language, and an understanding that gender-neutral or gender-inclusive language is evolving and in some cases is challenging to achieve.”
  • The gender umbrella entry is now gender and sexuality, covering a broader range of terms that previously had been listed separately.

Climate change

Do not use terms like climate change deniers, climate change skeptics or climate change doubters. Be specific about an individual or group of people’s beliefs.” It also says: “The terms climate crisis and climate emergency are used by some scientists, policymakers and others, and are acceptable.


Avoid the dehumanizing collective noun the homeless, instead using constructions like homeless people, people without housing or people without homes. Mention that a person is homeless only when relevant.

Older adults

Older adult(s), older person/people are the preferred terms over senior citizens, seniors or elderly

AP Style changes for 2019

accent marks (revised)

Use accent marks or other diacritical marks with names of people who request them or are widely known to use them, or if quoting directly in a language that uses them: An immigration officer spotted him and asked an innocuous question: "Cómo estás?" How are you? Otherwise, do not use these marks in English-language stories. Note: Many AP customers’ computer systems ingest via the ANPA standard and will not receive diacritical marks published by the AP.

percent, percentage, percentage points (revised)

Use the % sign when paired with a numeral, with no space, in most cases (a change in 2019): Average hourly pay rose 3.1% from a year ago; her mortgage rate is 4.75%; about 60% of Americans agreed; he won 56.2% of the vote. Use figures: 1%, 4 percentage points. For amounts less than 1%, precede the decimal with a zero: The cost of living rose 0.6%

In casual uses, use words rather than figures and numbers: She said he has a zero percent chance of winning.

Constructions with the % sign take a singular verb when standing alone or when a singular word follows an of construction: The teacher said 60% was a failing grade. He said 50% of the membership was there.

It takes a plural verb when a plural word follows an of construction: He said 50% of the members were there.

Use decimals, not fractions, in percentages: Her mortgage rate is 4.5%.

For a range, 12% to 15%, 12%-15% and between 12% and 15% are all acceptable.

Use percentage, rather than percent, when not paired with a number: The percentage of people agreeing is small.

Be careful not to confuse percent with percentage point. A change from 10% to 13% is a rise of 3 percentage points. This is not equal to a 3% change; rather, it’s a 30% increase.

Use: Republicans passed a 0.25 percentage point tax cut. Not: Republicans passed a 0.25 percentage points tax cut or Republicans passed a tax cut of 0.25 of a percentage point.

hyphen (-) (revised)

Hyphens are joiners. Use them to avoid ambiguity or to form a single idea from two or more words.

These guidelines include changes in 2019, most notably removal of the requirement to hyphenate most compound modifiers after versions of the verb to be. In addition, see individual entries in this book and in Webster's New World College Dictionary.

AVOID AMBIGUITY: Use a hyphen whenever ambiguity would result if it were omitted. See COMPOUND MODIFIERS section for details. Also: He recovered his health. He re-covered the leaky roof. The story is a re-creation. The park is for recreation.

COMPOUND MODIFIERS: When a compound modifier — two or more words that express a single concept — precedes a noun, you must decide: Hyphenate that modifier, or not? Often there's not one absolute answer.

But in general: No hyphen is needed if the modifier is commonly recognized as one phrase, and if the meaning is clear and unambiguous without the hyphen. Examples include third grade teacher, chocolate chip cookie, early morning traffic, special effects embellishment, climate change report, public land management, first quarter touchdown, real estate transaction.

Do use a hyphen if it's needed to make the meaning clear and avoid unintended meanings: small-business owner, better-qualified candidate, little-known song, French-speaking people, free-thinking philosophy, loose-knit group. (Think of the different possible meanings or confusion if the hyphen is removed in each of those examples.)

race-related coverage 

Reporting and writing about issues involving race calls for thoughtful consideration, precise language, and an openness to discussions with others of diverse backgrounds about how to frame coverage or what language is most appropriate, accurate and fair. Avoid broad generalizations and labels; race and ethnicity are one part of a person's identity. Identifying people by race and reporting on actions that have to do with race often go beyond simple style questions, challenging journalists to think broadly about racial issues before having to make decisions on specific situations and stories.

race (revised)

Consider carefully when deciding whether to identify people by race. Often, it is an irrelevant factor and drawing unnecessary attention to someone's race or ethnicity can be interpreted as bigotry. There are, however, occasions when race is pertinent.

African American (revised)

No hyphen (a change in 2019 for this and other dual heritage terms). Acceptable for an American black person of African descent.

The terms are not necessarily interchangeable. Americans of Caribbean heritage, for example, generally refer to themselves as Caribbean American. Follow a person's preference.

Asian American (revised)

No hyphen (a change in 2019 for this and other dual heritage terms). Acceptable for an American of Asian descent. When possible, refer to a person's country of origin or follow the person's preference. For example: Filipino American or Indian American.

Caucasian (new)

Avoid as a synonym for white, unless in a quotation.

people of color, racial minority (new)

The terms people of color and racial minority/minorities are generally acceptable terms to describe people of races other than white in the United States. Avoid using POC. When talking about just one group, be specific: Chinese Americans or members of the Seminole Indian Tribe of Florida, for example. Be mindful that some Native Americans say the terms people of color and racial minority fall short by not encompassing their sovereign status. Avoid referring to an individual as a minority unless in a quotation.

biracial, multiracial

Acceptable, when clearly relevant, to describe people with more than one racial heritage. Usually more useful when describing large, diverse groups of people than individuals. Avoid mixed-race, which can carry negative connotations, unless a story subject prefers the term. Be specific if possible, and then use biracial for people of two heritages or multiracial for those of two or more on subsequent references if needed. Examples: She has an African American father and a white mother instead of She is biracial. But: The study of biracial people showed a split in support along gender lines. Multiracial can encompass people of any combination of races.

AP Style changes for 2017

  • ‘They’ is OK as a singular pronoun in limited cases, but it’s better to rework the sentence.
  • Gender issues: OK to use cisgender (gender corresponds with birth sex), gender nonconforming (noun), gender-nonconforming (adj) and intersex (a person born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn't seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male).
  • Under addiction: Addiction to drugs or alcohol is considered a disease, so avoid words such as abuse, program, alcoholic, user and abuser.
  • Cocktail should not be used to refer to a mixture of drugs for an execution. 

AP Style changes for 2016

  • Internet is now lower case (internet)
  • Web is lowercase in all instances such as webpage, webfeed
  • Voicemail is one word
  • If negligence is involved, use collision or crash vs. accident
  • Use chickpea instead of Garbanzo bean
  • Japanese whisky loses the ‘e’ (was whiskey)
  • Media is now a singular noun
  • Cross-dresser, not transvestite
  • ‘Spree’ is for shopping, not shooting
  • Climate change is more scientifically correct than global warming

AP Style changes for 2014

Spell the name of the state out entirely in content, datelines not needing a state remain the same. 

  • Example: Colorado vs. Colo.
  • Example: Denver (no state afterward); Grand Junction, Colorado

A comma continues to follow the state when in the middle of a sentence:

  • Example: The Aurora, Colorado, native is attending UCCS.

"Over" is now allowable in content referring to a numeral or amount of time. Previously, it was relegated to spacial references, as in being physically above something.

  • Example: The Ludlow Massacre occurred over 100 years ago.

AP Style changes for 2013

“Underway” is now one word,

The AP has prohibited use of the phrase “illegal immigrant” or “illegal” to describe a person, citing use of the word illegal as limited to an action, not a person. Such people are now referred to as "undocumented workers" or "undocumented immigrants."

Refer to people as “diagnosed with schizophrenia” instead of “schizophrenics.”

New words: Swag, chichi, dumpster and froufrou (swag and dumpster are OK by us; we prefer you stay away from words such as chichi and dumpster)

For questions or to make changes, please contact the Office of University Relations.