The following list includes easily confused words as well as the preferred spelling and capitalization for words that are commonly used in CU Boulder writing. For words not included here, consult Webster’s New World College Dictionary. Typically, the preferred, U.S. (as opposed to British Commonwealth) spelling is listed first when there is more than one correct spelling.

  • advisor | Use this spelling in all instances.
  • 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.
  • alumni | Plural for combination of male and female graduates or male graduates.
  • alumnus | Singular for male graduate. Also used as generic reference for male or female graduate.
  • bachelor’s, baccalaureate | Lowercase, as in bachelor's degree, but Bachelor of Arts, etc., is capitalized.
  • Board of Regents | Use the full name for first reference. Subsequent references may be styled as the regents or the board. Board of Regents is singular; regents takes a plural verb. No possessive apostrophe for the regents meeting. See also: regents entry.
  • Buffalo | Preferred plural is Buffaloes (rather than Buffalos). Plural possessive is Buffaloes’. Capitalized because it’s the proper name of CU’s sports teams.
  • Buff OneCard
  • campuswide
  • cancel, canceling, canceled, cancellation
  • check-in, check in | Hyphenated as a noun, two words as a verb.
  • checkout, check out | Spell it as one word as a noun, two words as a verb.
  • city of Boulder | Lowercase city.
  • 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, the
  • Coloradan | Not Coloradoan.
  • commencement | Capitalized only when referring to a specific one.
  • 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.
  • coursework 
  • credit hours
  • CU NightRide
  • cum laude | Translates as “with distinction.” No italics 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.)
  • data | Both a plural noun and a collective noun—i.e., it represents a unit—that can take a singular verb.
  • decision making | No hyphen when used as a noun. Hyphenate only when used as an adjective immediately before a noun.
  • department, the
  • distinguished professors
  • division, the
  • doctoral/doctorate | Doctoral is an adjective; doctorate is a noun.
  • 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. Do not hyphenate as e-mailEmail as a plural is a collective noun and does not take an s. Use email messages.
  • emeritus, emerita, emeriti | Honorary title for retired professor: emeritus for a male professor, emerita for a female professor. Emeriti is plural for both male and female professors.
  • every day/everyday | The single word everyday is an adjective.
  • faculty | A collective noun referring to an institution’s entire teaching staff. It can take a singular or plural verb, depending on the context. To refer to an individual who is part of a faculty, faculty member is preferred for clarity.
  • 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.
  • full time | Hyphenate only when used as an adjective immediately before a noun.
  • fundraising | One word, no hyphen, along with fundraise and fundraiser.
  • 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.)
  • homepage
  • Honors Program
  • IdentiKey
  • interdisciplinary
  • internet | The worldwide research network of computers communicating in a common language—TCP/IP—over telephone or fiber-optic lines. No longer capitalized, per AP Style.
  • its/it’s | Its is the possessive pronoun (remember: his, hers, its); it’s is the contraction of “it is.”
  • JILA | This is no longer an acronym and should be used as the name.
  • login/log in, log off | This is one word when used as a noun or adjective, and two words when used as a verb. Log in is preferred over log on.
  • magna cum laude | Translates as “with great distinction.” No italics. See also: cum laude entry.
  • master's | Lowercase, as in master's degree, but Master of Science, Master of Arts, etc., are capitalized.
  • media | A plural noun.
  • midsemester
  • midterm
  • more than/over | Over generally refers to spatial relationships. More than is preferred with numerals.
  • multicultural
  • MyCUBoulder
  • MyCUInfo
  • Nobel Prize | Both Nobel and Prize should be capitalized, and the area in which the prize was won should be lowercased. David Wineland won the Nobel Prize in physics in 2012. Five faculty have been named Nobel laureates at CU Boulder. She is a Nobel Prize-winning author.
  • non- | Most words beginning with non do not use a hyphen: noncredit, nondegree, nonmajor, nonprofit, 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 plus noun)
  • off-campus | (adjective; hyphenated when it immediately precedes a noun)
  • on campus | (preposition plus noun)
  • on-campus | (adjective; hyphenated when it immediately precedes a noun)
  • online | (adjective, adverb)
  • onscreen | (adjective)
  • on screen | (adverb)
  • orientation
  • Pac-12 | Needs the hyphen whether it stands alone or as part of “Pac-12 Conference.”
  • part time | Hyphenate only when used as an adjective immediately before a noun.
  • 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 preadmission, precollegiate, prelaw, premedicine, prepharmacy, preprofessional, prequalify, preregister, prerequisite.
  • premier, premiere | Premier means first in importance or rank. A premiere is a first performance.
  • Presidents Leadership Class
  • President’s Teaching Scholars
  • problem solving | No hyphen when used as a noun. Hyphenate only when used as an adjective before a noun.
  • program, the
  • 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.
  • regents | Lowercase when referring to individual members of the Board of Regents, unless used as part of a publication or personal title. See also: Board of Regents entry.
  • residence halls | Preferred term (rather than dorms).
  • Rhodes scholar | Lowercase scholar.
  • SAT | Never spell out or use periods. It no longer is an acronym. It does not refer to anything except itself.
  • school, the
  • smartphone
  • spring, summer, fall, winter
  • spring break
  • state of Colorado, the
  • statewide
  • student-athlete, student-employee | Always hyphenate, whether used as a noun or adjective.
  • summa cum laude | Translates as “with highest distinction.” No italics. See also: cum laude entry.
  • system | As in CU system, always lowercase.
  • theater | Use this spelling except when it is spelled “Theatre” in a proper name (e.g., Mary Rippon Theatre, Department of Theatre and Dance).
  • toward | Not towards, which is the British Commonwealth form.
  • underway | One word in all uses.
  • university, the | Do not capitalize when it refers generically to the University of Colorado or to one of its campuses.
  • wait list, wait-list | Two words as a noun, hyphenated as a verb or adjective.
  • web | Shortened form of World Wide Web. Spell it lowercase in all instances.
  • webpage
  • website
  • Wi-Fi
  • workload
  • work-study | Always hyphenate, whether used as a noun or adjective.
  • World Wide Web