Word Usage

This topic covers areas that many of us have questions about occasionally:

antecedent reference • athletic names • All-America • building/room names • comparisons • decades • gender designation • height/weight • honors • money • musical compositions • plurals • possessives

Antecedent Reference

  • A singular noun requires a singular pronoun.
  • Avoid using sentences such as the following, “The Scot team won their last four games,” by using a plural noun, “The Scots won their… .”

Athletic Names

  • Scots is the nickname of all Alma athletic teams. It must not appear in all uppercase letters.
  • Always capitalize Scots, Alma’s teams’ nickname. Do not refer to female athletes as Lady Scots.
  • When an individual player is mentioned, Scot can be used.
  • Watch the use of Scots or Scot as an adjective. No apostrophe is used when Scot precedes a players name.

The Scots football team played a great game.

The Scots played at Hope last Saturday.

Scot lineman Joe Green recovered a fumble. This Scot’s statistics lead the nation.

Scot swimmer Jason Rodgers had the best time.

The Scots’ line outperformed the Britons’.

The Scot’s women’s soccer team will play at Olivet.

[Note: Try to avoid using several possessives in a row by rewording the sentence.]

  • Use an apostrophe with Alma’s team name Scots, following the same rules for other plural nouns ending in s.
  • References to athletic teams should be lowercase.
  • When Alma fields teams for both genders in a single sport (basketball, soccer, swimming and tennis) the gender designations are used.

men’s basketball coach
women’s basketball coach
men’s soccer coach
women’s soccer coach
men’s lacrosse coach
women’s lacrosse coach

The term letterman should not be used for female athletes. Letter winner is preferred.


  • The adjective is All-America; the noun is All-American.

He is a member of the All-America football team.

He is an All-American.

Building/Room Names

Refer to the building first, then to a room or location(s) within it.

Alma College Bookstore
Bahlke Field
Bonbright Hall
Brazell Hall
Bruske Hall
Cappaert Gymnasium
• Baker-Jones Educational Unit (hyphen used on plaque)
• Campbell-MacDonald Room
• McClure Natatorium
Carey Hall
Centennial House
Clack Art Center
• Flora Kirsch Beck Gallery
Dow Science Center
Dunning Memorial Chapel
Eddy Music Building
Gelston Hall
Hamilton Commons
Hood Building
Hogan Center
• Art Smith Arena
• Carra Jones Smith Lobby
Kapp Science Laboratory Center
Kehrl Building
• Colina Library Wing
Kimball Court
McIntyre Center for Health Science
McIntyre Mall
Mitchell Hall
Newberry Hall
Nisbet Hall
Reid-Knox Administration Building
• Reid-Knox Memorial Room
Oscar E. Remick Heritage Center for the Performing Arts
• Presbyterian Hall
• Strosacker Theatre
Smith Alumni House
Alan J. Stone Center for Recreation (Stone Rec Center)
Swanson Academic Center (SAC)
• Bauervic Educational Media Center
• Herrick Foundation Computer Center
• Strosacker Collaborative Teaching and Learning Center
TKE (Tau Kappa Epsilon) House
Trower Building
Tyler-Van Dusen Campus Center
• Beck Courtyard
• Louanna Baker Jones Auditorium (formerly in Tyler)
Wilcox Medical Center
Wright Hall [original Wright Hall 1901-76]


  • Use “er” endings for two — fewer, elder, younger, etc.
  • Use “est” endings three or more — most, fewest, eldest, etc.


  • Do not use an apostrophe.

RIGHT: 1980s

WRONG: 1990’s

Gender Designation

  • As much as possible, use plural forms to avoid “he/she” usage.

RIGHT: Students must pay their registration fees by Friday.

WRONG: A student must pay his/her registration fee by Friday.


  • Use foot and inch marks found on the key to the right of the semicolon/colon (not curly quotes and apostrophe) when referring to the height of an athlete.

Alma’s best guard was 6’2”, 210 lbs.
If space is a consideration, 6-2, 210 may be used.


  • Use italics for summa cum laude, magna cum laude and cum laude in publications or on the website but not when including these terms in release copy.


  • Use only the numbers that are necessary in references to dollar amounts. Drop unnecessary zeros.

Please submit the $25 course fee by Sept. 16.

The college had an $18.3 million operation budget in 1989-90.

Two million dollars has been donated to the Annual Fund.

Exceptions to this guideline occur when constructing lists of dollar amounts in which some items need the cents numbers. Use your own judgment when space is a concern. Consistency within a publication is always a goal.

Musical Compositions

  • Do not italicize or use quotation marks for titles of musical compositions that contain only the name of a musical form and a key or number. Use quotes or italics with an attributed title and place it in parentheses after the designation of form and key.

Beethoven’s Sonata in D major. op. 128

Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in E-flat (St. Anne)

  • The words opus and number are lowercase and abbreviated op. and no. in Heritage Center copy. If number follows opus it is lowercased; if it is part of a composition’s title, capitalize the n.
  • In a composition title, Major is uppercase, minor is lowercase. The key is always in uppercase.

RIGHT: Beethoven’s Sonata in D Major

Grieg’s Concerto in A minor

WRONG: Beethoven’s Sonata in d Major

Grieg’s Concerto in a minor

RIGHT: Prelude in E-flat minor

  • Use cello without the apostrophe for Heritage Center copy.






  • Form the possessive of a noun ending in s by adding only an apostrophe whether singular or plural.

students’   •   Jones’   •   Jesus’