Primary in-house styles

Many of the styles used on a day-to-day basis when writing for RISD print materials and websites are outlined here, but when in doubt, check the Chicago Manual of Style, which is our preferred source for expert opinion on current styles (more broadly speaking, beyond RISD).

Please find below in-house style information about using the following in RISD communications:


In general, the only words we tend to abbreviate in writing for RISD are:

majors when they follow a class year (see list here)

state names when used in an address

Spell out the state name when it’s used alone in text, but not when it’s preceded by a city or town name:

She comes from Alabama with a banjo on her knee.

She comes from Tuxville, AL, with a banjo on her knee.

When using the abbreviated version of states or the country as a whole, don’t use periods, but do use the US Postal Service abbreviations (CA, DC, RI, US or USA, etc.)

In addresses, generally don’t abbreviate words denoting a street location: Avenue not Ave, Drive not Dr, etc.


In writing meant to represent RISD to a broad external audience, avoid using highly specialized acronyms that may exclude general readers from understanding the topic or reference at hand (AICAD, CMS, POSE, UX, etc.).

For most acronyms, spell out the full name the first time it’s used in a specific piece of writing and put the acronym in parentheses immediately following the first iteration:

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)

International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF)

National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD)

Project Open Door (POD)

Subsequent references should use the acronym only.

There’s no need to spell out acronyms that have become synonymous with the entity/agency in question (ATM, BBC, NASA, SAT) or that are widely known in informal usage (aka, asap, byob, fyi, imho, ok).

In general, don’t use periods in acronyms:

yes: RISD no: R.I.S.D.
yes: PhD no: Ph.D.

Use your judgment regarding audience familiarity with each acronym, but when in doubt err on the side of clarity, using rule #1:

Representatives from the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD) attended the joint RISD/NASA symposium.

When using the plural form of an acronym, add a lowercase ‘s’:


Only use an apostrophe before the ‘s’ when you’re referring to the possessive case:

The BBC’s coverage includes interviews with… The CDC’s recommendations all for…

Although they’re technically based on acronyms, words like pdf, url and fpo should be written in all lowercase to reflect how they’re most commonly used.

ampersands / plus signs

Do not use ampersands (&) and plus signs (+) interchangeably, and avoid mixing and matching them within a single passage of text. When in doubt, default to using the word and instead.

Ampersands and plus signs are most often used at RISD in headers, display type of departmental titles but never in narrative text, where the word and should always be used instead.

Certain RISD department and division titles make use a plus sign (+), with a space before and after it, instead of an ampersand (&) or the word and, whereas others specifically avoid using a plus sign.

The following entities do use a + sign in their titles:

Architecture + Design (division)

Digital + Media (graduate department)

Jewelry + Metalsmithing (undergraduate / graduate department)

Teaching + Learning in Art + Design (graduate department)

whereas the following division and departments prefer to use the word and everywhere (except for in the display type in the ACADEMICS section of

Experimental and Foundation Studies

History, Philosophy and the Social Sciences

Literary Arts and Studies

Theory and History of Art and Design

In addition, one RISD department—the Center for Arts & Languages—incorporates an ampersand in its official title.

Do not use a plus sign or an ampersand to replace the word and unless you’re referring to the title of a division or department...

yes: Scheri Fultineer is the dean of Architecture + Design.

no: The student bought supplies & proceeded to paint the entire room.


Capitalize proper nouns (Chace Center, Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies, Rosanne Somerson, Woods-Gerry Gallery) but avoid the over-use of initial caps or ALL CAPS for most communication.

no: All Seniors Must Sign Up For Information


yes: All seniors must sign up for information

yes: all students need to register for classes tomorrow

no: Opportunities Available Through RISD Programs Abroad

yes: Opportunities available through RISD programs abroad

Capitalize an individual’s job title only when it precedes a person’s name, but not after:

Department Head of Landscape Architecture Emily Vogler

Don’t write headers or text passages in ALL CAPS. If you’re updating words for a design that calls for type to display in ALL CAPS the template or designer should automatically convert your words accordingly.

However, do use proper capitalization when entering header text in a content management system so that, in the event of a new design direction, text will appear as it should per the above styles. (e.g., don't enter text in all lowercase and assume it will always be converted to all caps.)


When captioning images that show people, identify the people by name, from left to right. Use a period if the caption is in sentence form.

In general, short captions should be sufficient:

Somerson visits Furniture Design studios

but whatever the requirements of the communication, keep the approach consistent within any single context (digital and print).


Don’t use serial commas (the final comma before the word and in a series) except where absolutely necessary to avoid confusion:

She enjoyed taking classes in blacksmithing, glass and ceramics.

I love tofu and jelly, jelly beans, and peanut butter and jelly.

Don’t use a comma after a short introductory adverbial phrase unless it’s necessary to avoid confusion:

In December his work was featured at Woods-Gerry Gallery.

After the meeting they talked about what had happened.

On Friday we’re getting together for lunch.

After editing the meaning became clear.


Before eating, the family went for a walk.

After editing, her article is easier to understand.

Don’t use commas to set off a word or phrase needed to identify the noun that precedes it:

MacFarlane’s sitcom The Orville airs on Fox.

The painter Eric Fischl once taught at RISD.

whereas an explanatory word, phrase or clause used to add descriptive information to the noun immediately preceding it should be set off by commas:

The first woman in charge of RISD, Helen Metcalf, managed the School with great skill.

Commas and periods go inside the close quote in a quotation mark, whereas colons and semicolons go outside:

“I can’t believe how many times I’ve told you that,” she said. “It seems obvious.”

He refers to his sculptures as “Victorian kitsch”; his paintings, on the other hand, feel spare and postmodern.

When quoting a question or exclamatory statement, the question mark or exclamation point replaces the need for a comma:

“Go away!” she screamed.

“Why me?” he wailed.

However, if the question or exclamatory statement is the author’s (i.e. yours) and not part of the quoted material, it goes outside the quotation mark and may or may not require a comma:

Why would she have screamed, “Go away”?

company/corporation names and trademarks

When referring to the name of a firm, cite the name in full using the same spacing, capitalization and signs or symbols the company prefers. However, drop the word Inc. or Ltd. in body text (both should be retained in lists of donors or sponsors, and in rare instances when the company insists, as in Textron Inc.). Do not abbreviate the word ‘Company’ unless the firm itself specifies it (as in Tiffany & Co.).

Since we’re a nonprofit educational institution, our publications are considered noncommercial so it’s not necessary to use a company’s trademark symbol (™) or registered trademark symbol (®) when referring to it or any of its products.

crediting artwork

Italicize the title of an artwork in italics, followed by a parenthetical including the year, materials/medium and dimensions of the work. The artist’s name should precede or follow this information depending on context. If all dimensions are either in inches, feet or centimeters, indicate this with the last numeral cited, not each one.

The Big Red Ball (2001, oil on canvas, 24 x 36") by Harry Manner

Harry Manner’s The Big Red Ball (2001, oil on canvas, 24 x 36")

Zwaarte Nacht (1978, mixed media, 45 x 85cm) by Jan-Erik Herzog

For 3D work, indicate the dimensions by width, height, depth (in that order). No need to add w, h, d after each measurement:

(1993, bleached and stained curly maple, leather, 31 x 20 x 19")


Use em dashes (the long ones: —, made by tapping option/shift/dash on an Apple keyboard or, on a PC, typing 0151 while holding the alt key) without a space before or after in most narrative text—both online and in print. Make an exception if the em dash in a specific font is so long that it looks distracting.

Use shorter en dashes (–, option/dash on an Apple keyboard or by typing 0150 while holding the alt key on a PC keyboard) to indicate spans of days, dates and time:

Monday–Friday, Tuesday–Thursday, Saturday–Sunday

January 8–15, February 14–May 1, December 20, 2018–January 2, 2019

8–11 am

8:30 am–4:30 pm


For dates in narrative text, spell out the month, followed by the day as a cardinal number (19 as opposed to the spoken ordinal 19th), a comma and the year:

On January 22, 2018, the committee met to approve...

EHP students head to Rome in August 2018.

digital verbiage

Given RISD’s emphasis on the use of new technologies—and given how quickly they change—all print and electronic publications should reflect an awareness of current trends and best practices in electronic communication.

Whenever possible, use in-text hyperlinks when making reference to or re-directing readers to another website or page:

yes: Find more of Greenberg’s work at

no: For more information about Greenberg’s work, go to

In instances when referring to a url is appropriate, don’t use the http:// or www. prefixes:





Do include the subdomain (prefix) when referring to a non-www address:

Spelling preferences for commonly used digital/tech words and phrases are (please note which words are capitalized and which are not):

analytics, web analytics

app, app-based (don’t use the unabbreviated ‘application’ form)

artificial intelligence (AI can be used after first reference)

CAD (which stands for computer-aided design but is generally understood by our audiences)

cloud, cloud computing, cloud-based

crowdsourced, crowdsourcing


data, database, big data


dot-com, dot-coms



eBay, ecommerce, email

emoji (singular and plural), emoticon, emoticons (more on these below)

Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Tumblr, Twitter, YouTube

GB (gigabyte); MB (megabyte); TB (terabyte); 38MB of storage space (no space before MB + no ‘s’ at the end)

gaming (refrain from e-jargon like ’gamification’ and ‘gamify’)

gif (graphics interchange format, but use the acronym)

Google (don’t use “google” or “googled” as a verb; “search” will do)

hard code, hard-coded, hard drive, hardware, hardwired

hi-res, low-res

homepage, webpage

html (hypertext markup language)




internet (use sparingly; you’re probably referring to the World Wide Web/www—the web portion—and not the larger infrastructure aka the internet)


iPad, iPhone, iTunes, Mac, MacBook

link (not hyperlink)

login (noun and adjective); log in (verb)

navigate, navigation (verb and noun form used to discuss how website users move around the site), nav (noun referring to a set of hyperlinks that move users to and from major sections of a website)






real time (noun), realtime (adj)

responsive (for websites and pages that automatically size to fit desktop, tablet and smartphone screens)

search, search bar, web search

social media

spam (mass junk email); Spam (canned meat product)

smartphone, smartwatch

TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol)



tweet, tweeted (for posts on Twitter; simply use “post” for communications on other social media sites)

UI (user interface), UX (user experience), UI/UX (note that UI and and UX are not interchangeable: UX design deals with user enjoyment at a more conceptual level whereas UI refers to the more concrete aspects of creating user-friendly experiences on apps, websites, etc.)

url, urls

virtual reality (noun), virtual-reality (adjective), VR; augmented reality, AR (though AR is probably less familiar than VR)

wearable technology, wearable tech, wearables

website, web hosting, webcam, the web (capitalize World Wide Web, but use this sparingly if at all)

word processing

Please use emoji and emoticons sparingly in most official RISD communications. In more casual pieces, you might want to use emoji as a way of warming up the tone, but even then, use them strategically. And note that both the singular and the plural of the word is emoji (not emojis).


When omitting any words, phrases or paragraphs from quotations (of either written text or spoken language), use three ellipsis points to indicate the deleted words:

If Frank Gehry were to melt down a set of Legos and remold the brightly colored plastic to reflect his own fantastic vision, the result would be like Oliblocks.

If Frank Gehry were to melt down a set of Legos and remold the… plastic…, the result would be something like Oliblocks.

To indicate omissions between sentences or when the last part of a sentence is omitted, use four ellipsis points (one to indicate the period in the sentence and three to signal an omission):

If Frank Gehry were to melt down a set of Legos and remold the brightly colored plastic to reflect his own fantastic vision, the result would be something like Oliblocks, the toys created by architect and designer Dan Oakley BArch 89. The four organically shaped blocks interlock via ball-and-socket joints and magnets to form sculptural structures.

If Frank Gehry were to melt down a set of Legos and remold the… plastic…, the result would be something like Oliblocks…. The four organically shaped blocks interlock… to form sculptural structures.

Consider strategically interrupting and truncating quotations with an attribution rather than employing ellipses:

If Frank Gehry were to melt down a set of Legos and remold the brightly colored plastic,” the reviewer observes, “the result would look something like Oliblocks.”

foreign words

When a foreign word is translated in the text, italicize it the first time only and translate it parenthetically:

Children of diplomats attend the lycées américains (American high schools) throughout the world.

When the context calls for translating a title for clarity, give the original title first and the translation in parentheses:

Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) is apparently one of the three top-selling books of all time.

Subsequent references can be to Le Petit Prince sans translation.

Some imported words in regular use in English retain their accents and others lose them; check a dictionary for the preferred spelling:



gender-neutral pronouns

Many members of the RISD community are gender nonconforming (meaning they don’t identify as either male or female). With that in mind, it’s important to use pronouns with sensitivity and nuance. Defer to an individual’s preference, which may be they/them/their, ey, Latinx, per, ve, xe and ze, among others.


Don’t hyphenate between adverbs and verbs:

strictly speaking

carefully timed

painstakingly programmed

Don’t hyphenate compound nouns used as adjectives:

art history lecture

content management system

interstate highway infrastructure

Don’t hyphenate common words such as:

cofounder / cofounded


longstanding / longtime

multidisciplinary (or interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary)




To avoid potential ambiguity, do hyphenate when a non-ly adverb is used to create an adjective:

much-loved teacher

ever-resourceful student

fast-moving bicyclist

Do hyphenate when a noun and adjective construction is used in an adjectival form:

net-zero house

site-specific installation

mixed-media piece

labor-intensive process

Hyphenate fractional numbers but don’t hyphenate fractions of time:

three-quarters of the student body

a quarter hour

one-half of the class

a half hour, a century and a half

When identifying an individual’s nationality, race or ethnicity, honor the person’s preferences. For example, both Chinese American and Chinese-American are acceptable depending on how the person wants to be identified. If they have no preference or it is unknown, use the non-hyphenated construction (e.g. African American).

Refer to this website’s inclusive language guide for further guidance on writing about nationality and race/ethnicity.

inclusive language

To help campus communicators use language that is respectful, aware and anti-discriminatory, this website’s inclusive language guide provides direction for communicating about identity and diversity in inclusive ways.


Generally, use italics to indicate the official titles of all sorts of items:

artworks, exhibitions, installations, art series

books, magazines

films, TV shows

Also italicize foreign words that aren’t common in everyday English:

lycée français, kiitos, sevgi

but don’t italicize foreign words that have become common in English usage:

adagio, feng shui, laissez-faire, nom de plume, perestroika, résumé, yarmulke, zeitgeist

That said, proper nouns don’t get italicized:

Escola Superior de Disseny i Enginyeria

Fachhochschule Erfurt

Politecnico di Milano
Universität der Künste Berlin


Use an individual’s full name (first and last) for the initial reference in a text passage. Refer to the same person by last name only in subsequent usage.

Don’t use prefixes such as Mr. or Ms. when referring to individuals and don’t repeat titles such as Professor or President either:

When Natalie Jeremijenko spoke to juniors in the Glass department.… Jeremijenko told students …

President Rosanne Somerson welcomed guests…. Somerson addressed the audience directly ….

For non-alumni, do not cite an individual’s advanced degree, pedigree or affiliation with an organization after his or her name:

no: The featured speaker, I.M. Brilliant, PhD, will respond to questions following his presentation (but only if you address him as Dr. Brilliant).

no: Professor Plum, AIA, provided students with the clue to success.

If it’s important to include a person’s credentials, do so through text that substantiates why his/her training is relevant:

The featured speaker, I.M. Brilliant, will respond to questions following his presentation. Brilliant holds a PhD in Entomology from Harvard, where he completed his dissertation on the complex design sensibilities and innate architectural talent of Camponotus pennsylvanicus, commonly known as the carpenter ant.


Spell out numerals in text up to and including the number nine. When referring to the number 10 or higher, use numerals, unless the word begins a sentence:

Thirty students boarded the bus.

When 30 students boarded the bus...

In the past 12 years, RISD has acquired six buildings.

Use numerals to indicate an individual’s precise age, but spell out ages that are less specific:

The artist is 33 years old. She’s in her early thirties.

He turns 20 in January. Soon he’ll be in his twenties.

When numbers reference money, refer to round numbers without decimal points and zeros:

yes: $10 or $75 or $5,000

no: $10.00 or $75.00 or $5,000.00

If the amount you’re referring to isn’t even, indicate the exact figure as follows:




In narrative text, use the numerical representation for money (up to and including the hundreds column) combined with the appropriate unit word:

yes: That was the year the RISD Annual Fund exceeded its $1.6-million goal.

yes: At that time, RISD’s annual operating budget was $142.8 million.

no: At that time, RISD’s annual operating budget was $142,800,000.

no: At that time, RISD’s annual operating budget was one hundred and forty-three million dollars.

Never combine the dollar sign ($) with the word dollar:

no: The goal is to raise $5 million dollars.

Remember to hyphenate between the numerals and the figure when it’s used as an adjective; no hyphen is needed when using a figure as a noun:

yes: The architect has designed a $30-million building.

yes: The building will cost $30 million and connect several existing structures.

In text that combines round figures with precise ones, decimal points should be used for both figures to make them parallel:

cost: $10.99
shipping + handling: $ 5.00

When referring to figures in the millions, billions or trillions, try to round to the closest figure and ideally use only one number after a decimal point (or avoid using more than two):

yes: $15.53 million or $15.5 million

no: $15.527 million

yes: $283.26 billion or $283.3 billion

no: $283.264 billion

percentages / dollar signs

Use the % symbol and $ sign rather than the words ‘percentage’ and ‘dollars’ in conjunction with numerals when referencing percentages and monetary values in narrative text:

Admission is $5 per person.

Roughly 33% of RISD’s student body is international.

phone numbers

The style for domestic phone numbers is:

401 454-6100

with no parentheses around the area code and no hyphen after it.

Since the RISD community is a very international one, include the international dialing prefix for US phone numbers when/where appropriate:

+1 401 454-6100

For extensions, go for the shortest and do not add a space between the x and the four digits that follow:

yes: x6349

no: ext. 6349, Ext.6349, EXT 6349

To indicate a phone number, use the word phone (or simply a p when pairing with an e for email), without a colon:

yes: phone 401 454-6300 or p 401 454-6349 or e

no: tel. 401-454-6300 or Tel.401/454-6300 or Tel (401) 454-6300 or telephone 401.454.6300

photo credits

Whenever possible, credit the photographer(s) for all images used. Depending on the design of the publication, typical photo credits look like this:

photo by Matt Johnson

photographs by Jo Sittenfeld MFA 08 PH

If a copyright notice is needed, present it without a space:

©2017 Mary Black

©2018 Getty Images


In general, we adhere to the Chicago Manual style: form the possessive by adding an apostrophe and the letter s, or in the case of plural nouns, by adding the apostrophe only:

the black dog’s teeth

six cats’ toys

Use the same approach with proper names ending in s:

Phillip Glass’ new score, the Nads’ skating skills

quotes / quotation marks

Commas and periods go inside the end quotation mark, colons and semicolons outside:

“I can’t believe how many times I’ve told you that,” she said. “It seems obvious.”

He refers to his sculptures as “Victorian kitsch”; his paintings, on the other hand, feel spare and postmodern.

When quoting a question or exclamation, the question mark or exclamation point replaces the need for a comma:

“Go away!” she screamed. “Why me?” he wailed.

However, if the question or exclamatory statement is the author’s (i.e. yours) and not part of the quoted material, it goes outside the quotation mark and may or may not require a comma:

Why would she have screamed, “Go away”?

He wailed, “Why me?” just moments before being chosen to be the first to dive in.


Use the most concise and typographically cleanest way to present time, with lowercase abbreviations and no periods and don’t repeat the am or pm for spans of time:

8 am, 3 pm, 10:30 am

yes: 8–10 am, 1–3 pm, 6:30–8:30 pm, 8:30 am–12:30 pm

no: 8 am–10 am, 1 pm–3 pm

titles (of things, not people)

Every title of an exhibition, work of art, installation, art series, book, movie, magazine, TV show (or the name of a ship, airplane or spaceship!) gets italicized.

Her work was featured in the January issue of American Craft.

Un/Settled continues through July 28 at the RISD Museum.

When you board the HMS QE2, it feels as though …