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How Shall I Put it?

You’re in your office at Smith working hard on writing an important report or text for a printed brochure. You come to a standstill when a clause or a particular word usage doesn’t seem to make sense. Time is tight and stress is building. You need to know the best way to express what you have to say.

Thanks to the work of Eileen Dunn, communications editor in college relations, there’s a place to go for answers.

The Smith College Style Guide, which was recently updated by Dunn, is an online compendium of preferred usages and campus references arranged in alphabetical order.

The resource, which is regularly maintained by Dunn, provides general rules on how to refer to academic degrees, disciplines and titles, for example, or to departments and people on campus.

“If writers have questions, they should check the style guide first,” says Dunn.

The style guide is based on the Associated Press Stylebook, and that is the next recommended source for writers on campus, says Dunn. The Chicago Manual of Style  (considered the “bible” by many copy editors) can also be used for more technical questions or for those requiring more detailed explanations.

Unlike other style guides, the Smith resource provides specific college references and preferred usages within the Smith writing community. It also addresses some of the more common questions encountered in academic writing. Do you sometimes wonder whether to write email (without a hyphen) or e-mail? How should you refer to S.O.S.? Should the Gamut be capitalized? Is it correct to abbreviate academic degrees in text?

The Smith Style Guide has answers.

By adhering to the college’s style guide, Dunn emphasizes, online and printed materials across campus will be more uniform and cohesive.

“We want to maintain consistency in the written materials produced on campus,” says Dunn. “This guide represents the style that we would prefer campus writers to follow.”

However, Dunn points out, the guide is not intended as a panacea for all grammatical issues. “A style guide isn’t really an imperative,” she says, “it’s more a set of guidelines.”

Dunn, who joined the Smith staff in 2000, periodically updates the college’s style guide. Listings are added or altered to reflect changes on campus or changes in the language as it evolves and becomes more inclusive. Recent changes have included department names, such as the Program for the Study of Women and Gender, which was formerly women’s studies, and the Department of Religion, formerly the Department of Religion and Biblical Studies. Recent building names have also been added, such as the Campus Center (capitalized) and Ford Hall, the new building for the sciences and engineering.

Further, the new version of the style sheet features many linked cross-references for easy navigation to other topics and is available in PDF format for a high-quality print-out option.

Even with the new edition of the Smith College Style Guide, writing questions will no doubt arise. If, after checking the guide, campus writers still feel “stuck,” Dunn encourages them to contact her.

“I like phone calls or e-mail messages,” she assures. “Editing can be very isolated work, and I welcome any human contact.”

Dunn can be reached at ext. 2182 or via e-mail (preferred Smith style, according to the guide) at

2/6/08   By Eric Sean Weld
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