Writing Style Guide

Hey there! Welcome to the style guide. Like most news outlets, we use the Associated Press style for all our sections. But we’ve also put together a style guide for some FIU-specific things (is it Graham Center or GC? MM campus or MMC?). 

For grammar, punctuation and spelling, we’ll refer you to AP. You can purchase a stylebook or a subscription to their web guide that updates every year. But since this is college and we’re all broke, we’ve also included a few links to places that have AP rules for specific topics. Take a read-through before you start writing, and refer to this guide anytime you have questions. Happy writing!

PantherNOW Style

The AP style cheat sheet comes next, but first, there are a few things you should know about writing about FIU specifically, along with a few things we do in particular. 


  • Titles are capitalized before a name, but not on their own.
    • Example: Kenneth Jessell is the interim president. Interim President Kenneth Jessell was the former chief financial officer of FIU. 
  • The only title we abbreviate is “Doctor” to “Dr.”; everything else is spelled out. But, you only need to use full titles with the first reference, so you’ve got that going for you. 

Places at FIU

  • When it comes to the campuses (campi?) spell them out completely on the first use, but abbreviate them afterward.
    • Modesto Maidique Campus: MMC
    • Engineering Center: EC
    • Biscayne Bay Campus: BBC
    • FIU at I-75: I-75 Campus (yeah, this one is kind of the problem child).
  • There are a couple of other “campuses” that FIU has (e.g., Wynwood, downtown) but because we rarely write about them, you can just spell them out every time you use them. 
  • For buildings on-campus, the same principle applies. You’ll want to write it out the first time, and then you can abbreviate it. The only real exception is MANGO, which most people know as MANGO anyways (plus, that’s a mouthful – bonus points if you actually know what it stands for). 
    • For MMC places, check out the map. 
    • For BBC places, check out the map. 
    • Just keep in mind that occasionally, you’ll write about a spot where students don’t go frequently or that we don’t write about a lot. If you’re not sure about an abbreviation, check with your editor – you may have to write it out every time just for clarity. 


  • Good general rule – spell it out the first time you reference it. Yes, everyone knows what SGA is. Yes, you’re going to use Student Government Association in your lede. 
  • Panther Connect will be your guidebook to FIU’s registered student organizations and usually will have the abbreviation listed with the org. 
    • As always, you may come across an org that isn’t registered with RSOC (excuse me – Registered Student Organization Council) or that doesn’t have an abbreviation listed, etc. Talk to your editor and use your best judgment when it comes to referencing them in your article. 


  • Here is the one place we do differ from AP in terms of grammar. 
  • You can abbreviate here – we try to keep headlines as simple as possible. 
  • Headlines here (and at quite a few other college papers) are sort of a go-with-your-gut process: capitalize what looks right, and ALWAYS include the most interesting or important part of your story along with a “curiosity gap”, or just enough info missing to get students reading.
    • Example: Banned Frats Return to Campus After Five-Year Hiatus
      • Good summary of the story, but leaves readers wondering which frats, why they were banned, etc. 

Photos and Cutlines

  • NEVER have a photo without attribution and a cutline
  • NEVER use a photo that isn’t from PantherNOW — we can use old photos, photos from other sections, etc. but we can get face legal problems for using Flickr, Unsplash, even Creative Commons.
    • In other words — PantherNOW ONLY (we are working on a photo library with photographer names, etc.).
  • Format: Caption | Source, Organization
    • Example: Students march in protest of higher education laws | Elise Gregg, PantherNOW
  • For pictures by writers or photographers from PantherNOW, simply use the above format with a caption of what’s going on in the picture.
  • For opinion pieces, the caption can be a caption or a quote from the article.
  • For pictures or videos from sources, we say “courtesy of”.
    • Example: Harry and Michelle Coleman with their award-winning brisket | Courtesy of Harry Coleman
  • In the case of a breaking story and there is absolutely no other option, you can pull from old PantherNOW articles. If you can’t find the photographer’s name, you can use “via”.
    • Example: FIU police report gunshots in Graham Center | Via PantherNOW archive

General AP Style Notes

The AP Stylebook is going to be a comprehensive guide to all things AP, but Writer’s Room put together a good general guide to the stuff you’ll need to worry most about. We’ve also included some of that here in case you just want to skim. 


  • Generally speaking, spell out numbers one through nine and use numerals for 10 and higher
  • Always use numerals for:
    • Age
    • Date and times
    • Speed
    • Highways, state roads and addresses
    • Percentages
    • Dimensions
    • Temperatures
    • Dollars and cents
    • Millions and billions (e.g. 7 billion instead of seven billion)
  • BUT, spell out numbers at the beginning of sentences except for the exceptions (tricky, right? Think “Sixty meal swipes…” vs. “1972 was when FIU was founded”)


  • Just use the numeral – don’t use “st, nd, rd, th, etc.”
  • Abbreviate certain months when used with a specific date
    • Jan, Feb, Apr, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec
  • When you’re not using a specific date, spell the month out with no comma between month and year
  • For full date reference, use Month Date, Year
  • DO NOT abbreviate days of the week – but do capitalize them
  • We’re a little more flexible with time here; just be sure to specify exactly when something happens (the dining hall opens at 7 a.m., not 7 p.m., so make that clear)


  • Ok, this is AP, not APA  – yes, you did just spend several years learning that or MLA only to throw it out the window. Sorry. 
  • For the first reference, use a person’s full name and title
    • Yes, this is college, but students still have “titles”. Always find out their age, year in school (e.g., sophomore, transfer, third-year, graduate, etc.) and major. If the story is relevant to a job or title they may hold, find that out too. 
    • Faculty and staff deserve the same recognition, so try to find out their official titles and even their level of education (nothing like calling a Dr. Jones “Professor Jones” and getting called on it later).
  • After that though, you’re home free – the second reference and after you can just use last names. 
  • The best practice is to always reference a quote, even if they’re the last person you used in the article.
    • Format: “XYZ,” said Jones. “ABC.” OR “One two three,” Jones said. We rarely have a reference before the quote.
  • For books, websites, other articles, etc., try to reference them directly in your wording and link back to them. 
    • Example: According to Writer’s Room, it’s best to cite the author, title, date and publication of a piece when citing it in your article. 
  • Don’t get overwhelmed here though! Yes, you want to include as much info about your sources as possible, but you don’t have to do it all at once.
    • Example: “The Blue Sky by A-ha is my favorite song,” said Elise Gregg, a senior studying journalism. The editor-in-chief has been an A-ha fan since high school. 


  • Lowercase, lowercase, lowercase. Lowercase until proven guilty. 
  • This section is actually fairly straightforward; capitalize proper nouns and you should be pretty much good to go. 
  • Common nouns should be capitalized when part of any proper noun.
    • Example: “Graham Center” is capitalized while “student center” is not. 
  • The same thing goes for seasons, directions, etc. Unless used in a proper noun (e.g., the Winter Ball, the Midwest, etc.) keep them lowercase.
  • Titles are capitalized before a name, but not on their own.
    • Example: Kenneth Jessell is the interim president. Interim President Kenneth Jessell was the former chief financial officer of FIU.