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New York City Department of Education Style Guide January 2014

New York City Department of Education Style Guide January 2014

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As of January 2014 New York City Department of Education GUIDE TO STYLE, GRAMMAR, AND PUNCTUATION This document is a reference

for all New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) employees to use when drafting internal and external communications. The guidance presented below is based on a combination of historical usage of terms and formatting principles of the NYCDOE, along with the recommendations presented on Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL). HOW TO USE THIS GUIDE Please consider the following tips when using the guide:  The guide is organized by topic in alphabetical order.  To easily search for a topic, navigate through the document using the “Find” function in Microsoft Word— simply hold down the CTRL and F keys at the same time and a window will open allowing you to search for a word anywhere in the document.  A formal document refers to any document that addresses a large audience, was created for institutional use across teams and/or offices, and/or is likely to be referenced or reproduced at a later date. Examples of formal documents include testimony, communications to school staff, public-facing documents such as press releases, informational documents such as the Expect Success family guides, and any official guide or handbook such as this one. Note that a document’s tone should suit the specific purpose and audience for which it is intended.  An informal document refers to one that is internal, for entertainment purposes, and/or unlikely to be reproduced. Examples of informal documents include an email for internal staff or a division’s newsletter. Again, a document’s tone should vary depending on the purpose of and audience for the material.  If a topic is not addressed in this guide, or if a grammatical term is referenced with which you are not familiar, please consult these useful resources on the Internet: o Strunk’s Elements of Style: http://www.bartleby.com/141/ o The Purdue Online Writing Lab: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/1/ o Chicago Manual of Style: http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/16/contents.html Should you have comments, concerns, feedback, or additions you would like to see made to the guide, please direct them to DAPS Director of Communications Brendan Lowe (blowe3@schools.nyc.gov).

2013-2014 Express school year in the above format in all formal documents. In addition, always put the year before the word “school year” (e.g., “During the 2013-2014 school year…” instead of “During school year 2013-2014…”). Acronyms Spell out all acronyms upon first reference, followed by the acronym in parentheses. Then, upon subsequent references in the same document, you may use the acronym. For example, on first reference, write out the title of “the United Federation of Teachers (UFT).” For subsequent references within the same document, you can just write “UFT.” Note that if you only plan on mentioning a term that has an acronym once in a document, there is no need to provide the acronym in parentheses. If you use an acronym, always capitalize it and do not put periods between the letters (“UFT” is correct; “U.F.T.” is incorrect). Whenever possible, limit your use of acronyms. Acronyms can be overwhelming to readers who are not familiar with our work. For a list of acronyms commonly used around the Department of Education, click here.

Addresses Use abbreviations (Ave., Blvd., St.) for addresses, but keep abbreviations consistent throughout. For example, do not alternate between “Ave.” and “Avenue.” Spell out and capitalize “First” through “Ninth” when used in street names; otherwise, use the number for street numbers higher than 10. Do not use “th” or “rd” after street numbers (i.e., “14 Street” is correct; “14th street” is not). When providing an address in a formal document, include both the borough and state. You do not need to list the state in an informal document. Only use the five-number form of a zip code, not the nine-number version. For Queens addresses, do not include both the neighborhood and borough (i.e., “Corona Park, NY” or “Queens, NY” are both correct; “Corona Park, Queens, NY” is not). Advance, the teacher evaluation and development system Always refer to Advance, the teacher evaluation and development system, as both a teacher evaluation and development system (never just “teacher evaluation”) because it was created not only to evaluate teachers, but to support their growth. Always italicize “Advance” when referencing this system. Affect/Effect Most of the time, “affect” is a verb and “effect” is a noun. In rare instances, “affect” is a noun when referring to a mood that somebody appears to have; “effect” can be a verb that means to bring about or accomplish.  Here is one example to help you remember the more common uses of “affect” and “effect”: “His study was intended to show how sugar affects reaction time. The effect was significant.” Ampersand The ampersand is an abbreviation (albeit a formal one) that is sometimes used in organization’s names (e.g., the Division of Academics, Performance, & Support). Only use it in place of “and” when the organization’s name is not part of a sentence, which will primarily be in document titles. This creates a sense of formality and shortens the title. When spelling out an acronym that includes the word “and” in a complete sentence in the body of a text, spell out the word “and.” For example, the in the title of this guide, we use an ampersand in “the Division of Academics, Performance, & Support” but when written out in the guide’s introduction, we spell out the “and.” Apostrophe Use an apostrophe to form possessives or to form conjunctions. Note that personal pronouns (i.e., his, hers, its, mine) don’t use apostrophes. Avoid using contractions (i.e., won’t, doesn’t, wasn’t, it’s) in formal publications, but it is fine to use them in informal communications, especially when you are trying to convey a more colloquial style. Attribution Always attribute quotations to a speaker, and ensure that first attribution uses the speaker’s full name and title on first reference. For example, “’I am so proud of our students,’ the Principal Jane Smith said, ‘They are wonderful.’” For later quote attributions for Principal Smith, you may simple write, “Principal Smith said…” Bold Use bold to set off a title or sub-headings, but take care not to bold (or italicize, underline, change the color of, etc.) too much text in the middle of sentences or paragraphs because this can defeat the purpose of formatting (to highlight important points). Brackets Use brackets to correct or clarify quoted material. For example, “He said, ‘It increased by 600 points’” could become, “He said, ‘[My SAT score] increased by 600 points.’”


Bullets  Capitalize the first word of a bullet;  Make sure the structure is parallel (start with either a verb or a noun, but all should be the same); and  End each bullet (unless it is a complete sentence) with a semicolon, except the last bullet, which takes a period. Note the distinction between writing lists of phrases or single words versus bullets that could comprise a complete sentence, such as the example above. When a bulleted list ends in punctuation, you must include the word “and” after the second to last and the last bullets (as in the bulleted list in this entry). Take care to be consistent with the types of bullets you use and ensure that bullets of the same type are aligned throughout a document. Capitalization Avoid capitalization mid-sentence for words that are not proper nouns, unless specified otherwise in this guide.  Document, PowerPoint Slide, and Chart Titles: All words in the titles of documents, charts, and titles should be capitalized except for prepositions, articles, and conjunctions (i.e., the, an, and, but, or, for, etc.). In addition, capitalize the first word of every title even if it is a preposition or article (e.g., The Catcher in the Rye).  Job titles: Do not capitalize job titles, such as principal, unless used directly before a specific principal’s (or other individual’s) name. The following are all correct: “Teachers work with Principal Smith to develop new curricula;” “Teachers work with the principal to develop new curricula;” and “Jane Smith, principal at P.S. 123, works with teachers to develop new curricula.” The same rules apply for other DOE job titles, with the exception of the Chancellor, which is always capitalized. Some examples to illustrate this are: o “Deputy Chief Executive Officer Jane Doe took her colleagues advice.” o “Jane Doe, the deputy chief executive officer, took her colleagues advice.”  Languages: Capitalize all languages (e.g., Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, English, French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Urdu).  Organizations: Capitalize an organization/department/law, etc., when referencing its full name. Thus, Supreme Court, No Child Left Behind, Department of Health and Human Services, United Federation of Teachers, New York City Council, etc. Only capitalize the word “administration” (the synonym for cabinet) when referring to a specific administration separately from the individual leading it (e.g., Mayor Jones applauded students for making progress; under his Administration, test scores have gone up. Under Mayor Smith’s administration, though, students failed to make progress.).  Places: Use upper case for definite geographical places, boroughs, regions, areas and countries (e.g., Colorado, the Dominican Republic, Queens, the European Union), and for other recognized political or geographical areas (e.g., the Middle East). Use lower case for east, west, north, and south, except when they are part of a name (e.g., the South Bronx, the Lower East Side).  Seasons: Capitalize the seasons when referencing a specific season (e.g., Fall 2013) only. Avoid using the passive voice when referring to seasons (e.g., the fall of 2013).  Subjects: Only capitalize subjects (e.g., math, science, social studies) when they are used as proper nouns (e.g., the New York State Earth Science Regents) or if they are languages (i.e., English or Spanish). Here is an example to illustrate this guidance: “John’s favorite subjects were math and English; he hated science, though, and was dreading taking the New York State Earth Science Regents.”  Other words that are always capitalized: Internet, Intranet, Common Core, Common Core Learning Standards, Core Curriculum, Progress Report, Quality Review. Career and Technical Education (CTE) Capitalize the term “Career and Technical Education” whenever spelled out. You may abbreviate it as “CTE” upon second reference.


Chancellor Upon first reference in a formal document, like a press release, refer to the Chancellor as “Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.” To create the “ñ” symbol in Microsoft Word, hold down the Alt key while typing the numbers 164. Later references to “the Chancellor” should be uppercase (as in “The Chancellor met with community groups.” not “The chancellor met with community groups.”) Do not capitalize the word “chancellor” when speaking generally about the role (e.g., There have been three chancellors over the past 10 years.). See capitalization rules for more information about capitalizing other titles. Charter Schools Charter schools are public schools and therefore are inherently included whenever you make reference to New York City public schools. When necessary, you can differentiate school types by referring to charter schools and district schools. Child/Children Take care to be consistent when referring to “child or children,” “student or students,” or “family/families.” If you are writing a letter to families or educators, choose to refer to either “your child” or “your children” and be consistent about maintaining either the singular (he/she) or plural voice (they) throughout the document. Use the plural voice if possible to avoid having to negotiate gendered pronouns. Furthermore, if you choose to refer to “children,” you should refer to “families” because plural children goes with plural families. If you refer to “your child” in the singular voice, you should use the singular voice for his or her parent as well. See the examples below:  “Dear Families, Please be sure to read with your child for at least two hours every night. Studies show that when a family reads with a child, the child is more likely to develop solid skills in phonics. It is imperative that your child develops these skills so that she succeeds later in life.”  “Dear families, Please be sure to read with your children for at least two hours every night. Studies show that when families read with their children, their children are more likely to develop solid skills in phonics. It is imperative that your children develop these skills so that they succeed later in life.” Children First Intensive (CFI) Capitalize “Children First Intensive” and only abbreviate it as “CFI” on second reference. City Capitalize the word “city” when you are referring to New York City (e.g., The City is fighting for more funds in Albany.). Do not capitalize the word “citywide,” since it is an adjective (e.g., The law went into effect citywide.). Citywide Instructional Expectations (CIE) Abbreviate the term “citywide instructional expectations” as “CIE” upon second reference in a document. Only capitalize it when referring to a specific year’s citywide instructional expectations document (e.g., “The 2013-14 Citywide Instructional Expectations is posted on the Common Core Library.). In this case, also be sure to italicize the title. Clusters Do not capitalize the word “cluster” unless you are referring to a specific cluster (e.g., Cluster 4). When referencing a specific cluster leader, use the capitalization rules for job titles. Specific clusters (1, 2, 4, 5, 6) are referred to using numbers only, not roman numerals. College and Career Readiness Never capitalize the phrase “college and career readiness” and only abbreviate it as “CCR” in informal documents upon second reference. Colon Use a colon to join clauses, introduce a series, or introduce a quote. After using a colon, include one space and start the next word with a lowercase letter. Only follow a colon with a capital letter if the next word is a proper noun or the start of a complete sentence or quote. Other uses of a colon may include:


  

Emphasizing a word, phrase, or clause that explains or has an impact upon the main clause (e.g., Al Gore insisted that our globe faces a pressing threat: global warming.) Introducing a series of items following an independent clause (e.g., We need the following supplies: paperclips, pens, and staples.) Introducing a quotation when the words before the colon are an independent clause (e.g., During his speech, the Chancellor discussed the reforms of the past eight years: “We introduced the elements of empowerment, leadership, and accountability,” he said.)

Comma Generally, you can use a comma to separate or set off words. One way to determine if you need a comma is to read a sentence out loud and see where you would naturally pause or take a breath. If it's a short pause, you should include a comma. You may naturally take a longer pause, but not quite a full stop (which would require a period); in this case, you should consider using a dash or a semicolon. If you don't want your reader to pause, there shouldn't be a comma. Commas can separate multiple adjectives, or separate clauses within a sentence. Here are a couple of common rules about commas:  When three or more items are listed in a series separated by commas (known as serial commas), there is a comma before the final item. o Incorrect: “Students must not bring cell phones, weapons or pets to school.” o Correct: “Students must not bring cell phones, weapons, or pets to school.”  Commas always go inside quotation marks (e.g., “Do your homework,” Mrs. Bernstein said.).  A comma can represent omitted words. In the following example, commas replace the word “is”: “The teacher is in the classroom; the principal, in the cafeteria; and the assistant principal, in the office.”  Use a comma after the words “hence,” “thus,” “then,” “still,” “accordingly,” “also,” “besides,” “however,” “moreover,” “otherwise,” and “therefore” when they are introducing an independent clause (e.g., Mrs. Reeves has taught for 30 years; however, she doesn’t plan to retire. Besides, we couldn’t prepare because of the blizzard.).  Use a comma after digits indicating thousands (e.g., 12,000) and millions (e.g., 1,100,000 school children).  Use a comma after providing a date that has a month, day, and year (e.g., The team meeting on November 24, 2013, was very productive.). Common Core Learning Standards When first referenced in formal documents, refer to these as “the Common Core Learning Standards,” with “learning” and “standards” capitalized. However, do not abbreviate the term as “CCLS.” You may shorten later mentions of them, or mentions in informal documents, to “the Common Core standards” or “the Common Core.” Note that “the Common Core” is a singular term referring to the set of Common Core Learning Standards, and therefore should be followed by singular verbs (i.e., New York State adopted the Common Core in 2010.). Refer to New York State’s new exams as “the State Common Core tests/exams.” Community-Based Organization (CBO) Never capitalize the term “community-based organization” unless you are using it in a title. You may abbreviate it upon second reference as “CBO.” Core Curriculum Capitalize the term “Core Curriculum.” Always reference the curriculum’s creator/publisher and italicize the name of the curriculum. The following are all properly formatted Core Curricula titles: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Go Math!, Pearson’s Connected Mathematics Project 3 (CMP3), Pearson’s ReadyGen, Scholastic’s Common Core Code X, the New York State Education Department’s curricula, developed by Common Core, Inc., Core Knowledge, and Expeditionary Learning.


Council of School Supervisors & Administrators (CSA) You may abbreviate “the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators” as “the CSA” on second reference. Curriculum The correct plural of “curriculum” is “curricula,” not “curriculums.” Danielson Framework for Teaching Capitalize and italicize “the Danielson Framework for Teaching” as it is in this entry. Upon second reference, you may shorten it to “the Danielson Framework.” Since there are multiple versions of this document, make sure to specify if you are referencing a document (i.e., the 2011 Danielson Framework for Teaching) other than the most recent 2013 version. Dash There are three types of dashes—the hyphen, the en dash, and the em dash. Do not use a space before or after any of them.  A hyphen (-) combines words (e.g., well-being, decision-making) into a single adjective modifier that precedes the word being modified. Words ending in “ly” aren’t hyphenated (e.g., highly effective). To form a hyphen on the keyboard, use the hyphen key, which is located to the left of the equals sign on most keyboards. Do not capitalize the second word in a hyphenated phrase unless it is part of a title (e.g., The Common Core-Aligned State Exams Overview document provided insight on the Common Core-aligned State tests.).  An em dash—which looks like this—is usually what we think of when we think of a dash. Use an em dash to set off a clause and to substitute for a comma or for parentheses to emphasize a clause (e.g., The new law would hurt New Yorkers—and all Americans—so we must fight back.). You are using em dashes correctly if your sentence would still make sense if you were to remove the dashes and all of the text in between them. Form an em dash by typing a word, typing two hyphens, typing another word, and then pressing the space bar.  Longer than a hyphen but shorter than an em dash, an en dash means “through” (e.g., “Read pages 4–6,” or “The event takes place May 1, 2010–June 1, 2010”). Form an en dash by pressing the spacebar, typing a hyphen twice, pressing the space bar, typing another word, and pressing the space bar. Dates Dates should include a month, day, and year, unless the year is implicit (i.e., the title of a document indicates the year it applies to). Don’t use “rd” or “th” after the number (e.g., “August 23 was my birthday,” not “August 23rd was my birthday.”). All letters should have a full date (e.g., August 23, 2007) so that it’s clear when it was sent. A month and a year are not acceptable. District Do not capitalize the word “district” unless you are using it to refer to a specific district (e.g., District 20), in a title, or at the start of a sentence. Division Titles Capitalize the titles of Department of Education divisions, and include a serial comma when writing a division title that includes a list (e.g., the Division of Academics, Performance, and Support). Only use an ampersand in place of the word “and” (e.g., Division of Academics, Performance, & Support) when writing the division name in a document’s title. Upon second reference in the body of a document, you may abbreviate division titles (e.g., DAPS). Dollar Figures Dollar figures should use the dollar sign and not the word “dollar” (e.g., “$12 million” is correct, “12 million dollars” is not). When using a dollar sign, numerals can be used for figures that are less than ten (e.g., There is $3 million worth of funding.). Round dollar figures to the nearest whole number unless there is a reason the exact figure is necessary. Figures in the millions should have no more than two numbers to the right of the decimal (e.g., $3.25 million).


Educator Educator is the most inclusive term when referring to school staff. Sometimes, we default to naming teachers and principals when referring to school staff, thereby leaving out other educators like guidance counselors, paraprofessionals, and librarians. When in doubt, use the term “educators” to reference school staff. Ellipsis Use an ellipsis—three periods in the middle of a sentence—when words are omitted. If an ellipsis is at the end of the sentence, it is four periods (unless the sentence ends in a question mark or an exclamation point, in which case it is …? or …!). Email The word “email” is now commonly written without a hyphen, so do not include one. Capitalize it only at the beginning of a sentence. Email Addresses When providing an email address in a formal document, always capitalize it properly (e.g., CurriculumPD@schools.nyc.gov, AdvanceSupport@schools.nyc.gov). When you wish to provide a specific individual’s email address, hyperlink to that person’s email address so that readers may easily click on that person’s name to send him or her an email. English Language Arts The subject “English Language Arts” encompasses the combination of reading comprehension, literature analysis, and writing instruction at the middle and high school levels. Always capitalize this term, and you may use the acronym “ELA” upon second reference of the term. To be clear, “English” is not a term that clearly references a specific course taught in New York City public schools. Therefore, default to using the term “English Language Arts” whenever referring to a class that teaches any of the skills related to comprehending English at the middle or high school levels. You can use the term “literacy” to refer to instruction that combines ELA, science, and social studies content at the elementary level. “Reading” refers specifically to classes focused on foundational skills in reading such as phonics. English Language Learners “English Language Learners” refers to students who are learning English as their non-native language. Capitalize all of the words in the term when you spell it out and you may abbreviate it as “ELLs” after the first mention. Everyday vs. Every Day The words “everyday” and “every day” are not interchangeable. “Everyday” describes an activity that is ordinary, routine, or commonplace. “Every day” describes an activity or event which occurs each day of the week. Examples E.g. and i.e. are two commonly-used shorthand phrases which introduce examples. However, they have slightly different connotations. E.g. is Latin for “for example,” while i.e. means “that is,” “namely,” or “in other words.” E.g. and i.e. are always lowercase and should not be italicized (they are italicized here for emphasis) but should include two periods and one comma. Examples include:  “It’s early, and factors beyond anyone’s control (e.g., the euro, Iran) could impact the race.”  “The Harvard report compared ‘professional’ reviewers (i.e., those working for newspapers and magazines) with their new competition.” Exclamation Point Do not use exclamation points in formal documents.


Families We use “families” whenever possible, instead of just “parent/guardian” to be as inclusive as possible of our students’ widely varying family structures. See rules about singular/plural agreement in the Child/Children entry. Farther vs. Further Use farther for distance and further to mean additional or continued. Federal Do not capitalize the word “federal.” Fonts Contact your division’s communications point person to determine the standard font and size for your division. The Division of Academics, Performance, and Support uses Calibri, size 11 font. Gendered Pronouns (He vs. She) Always ensure that nouns and their respective possessive pronouns agree. Never use a plural possessive pronoun for a singular noun with an ambiguous or open-ended gender.  Incorrect: A student will do well in school if they have support.  Correct: If a teacher has trouble with a student, he or she should bring him or her to the principal’s office. If using possessive pronouns becomes too wordy, pick one gender as an example, but make sure to alternate for equal usage between genders.  Verbose: If a teacher has trouble with a student, he or she should bring him or her to the principal’s office.  Succinct: If a teacher has trouble with a student, he should bring her to the principal’s office. Grade Levels Write out the number of a grade level, even when referring to grades ten through twelve. Never use “rd” or “th” after the grade level. When referring to a range of grades it is acceptable to use “kindergarten through third graders” or “grades K–3.” “Tenth-grade students,” with a hyphen, is correct because the words “tenth” and “grade” become a single term that modifies another word (i.e., students).  Correct: sixth grade, grade ten, third graders  Incorrect: 6th grade, grade 10, 3rd graders, third-graders If you are creating a chart or diagram that includes many numbers and statistics, you can use numerals when referring to grade levels for simplicity’s sake, but be sure to be consistent about your formatting. Hispanic/Latino The ethnic terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” are often used interchangeably, though they do in fact refer to different groups. “Hispanic” is a linguistic term that initially referred only to Spanish-speaking individuals, while “Latino” is a geographic term that refers to anyone who comes from a Latin American country. Use the term “Latino” instead of “Hispanic” because it acknowledges the linguistic and cultural diversity of the populations that the NYCDOE serves. Individualized Education Program (IEP) An “Individualized Education Program” refers to the legal document which ensure that students with disabilities receive the programs, supports, and accommodations they need to learn. You may abbreviate this term as “IEP” upon second reference. Note that the “p” officially stands for “program” and not “plan.” Internet Always capitalize the word “Internet” whether you are using it at the beginning or in the middle of a sentence. Intranet Always capitalize the word “Intranet” whether you are using it at the beginning or in the middle of a sentence.


Italics Use italics to denote the titles of books, plays, other major works and the Chancellor’s publications (e.g., Raising the Bar for Students and Schools: Our Commitment to Action). Shorter pieces of writing, like chapters, newspaper articles, or poems are denoted using quotation marks. Take care not to italicize (or bold, underline, change the color of, etc.) too much text in the middle of sentences or paragraphs for emphasis because this can defeat the purpose of formatting (to highlight important points). Kindergarten Generally, we do not capitalize the word “kindergarten” unless it is part of a proper noun or being abbreviated when mentioning grade levels (e.g., Kindergarten Connect, grades K-8). You do not need to capitalize “pre-kindergarten” either, unless it is part of a proper noun or a title; “pre-k” is an acceptable second reference. When using the term “prek” in a title, you should capitalize the “k.” Letterhead Use DOE letterhead with Chancellor Fariña’s name for all formal documents. Margins Make the margins of a document a consistent width, preferably greater than a half inch. Measures of Student Learning (MOSL) Abbreviate “Measures of Student Learning” as “MOSL” upon second reference. Measures of Teacher Practice (MOTP) Abbreviate “Measures of Teacher Practice” as “MOTP” upon second reference. Multiple-Choice Only hyphenate the term “multiple-choice” when it describes something (e.g., Multiple-choice tests are difficult for some students.). Do not hyphenate them when they do not describe anything (e.g., On the test, there are three sections: multiple choice, short answers, and graphing.). Networks Do not capitalize the word “network” unless it is being used to refer to a specific network (e.g., Network 105). When referencing a specific network leader, refer to the capitalization rules in job titles. We no longer refer to networks as Children First Networks (CFNs). Numbers  If a number is the first word in a sentence, always spell it out (e.g., Thirty-two students boarded the bus.).  If a number is in the middle of the sentence, only spell it out if it is between zero and nine. If it is 10 or higher, it should be a numeral.  Use numerals for all numbers that include a fraction or a decimal, even if that number is less than ten (e.g., 6.5, 6 ½, 32.75). Be consistent: avoid using a fraction and a decimal in the same sentence.  Fractions that stand alone and are not attached to numbers (they are smaller than one) should be spelled out and hyphenated (e.g., More than three-fifths of the class of 2009 graduated on time.).  When dealing with large, cumbersome numbers, start with a numeral and write out the rest of the number (e.g., More than $5 billion were spent on textbooks. City schools educate 1.1 million students.).  If a number is more than 1,000, there should be a comma separating the thousands, except in the case of years (e.g., 2006). For example, “more than 8,500 students went on field trips yesterday.”  When using decimals, be consistent about the number of decimal places you provide. For example, if a figure went from 18.8 percent to 12 percent, the 12 percent should also include one decimal place and therefore be written as 12.0 percent.


 

For guidance on percentages, see the Percent entry. Whenever you are referring to exact numbers or amounts, use “more than” and “less than” instead of “over” and “fewer,” respectively. o Correct: “Citizens voted more than five months ago. For the first time, less than 50 percent of senior citizens voted.” o Incorrect: “Citizens voted over five months ago. For the first time, fewer than 50 percent of senior citizens voted.”

New York City Never abbreviate New York City to “NYC” in formal documents, unless it’s in a direct quote or proper name (e.g., NYC & Company). If you want to shorten New York City on second reference, you can write “New York,” “the City,” or “the five boroughs.” New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) Upon first reference, spell out the entire name of “the New York City Department of Education.” To avoid any confusion with other departments of education, always identify “the New York City Department of Education,” and not simply “the Department of Education,” upon first reference. On second reference, it can be referred to as “the Department of Education,” “the Department,” “the DOE” (not DoE), or “the NYCDOE.” However, always include the word “the” before each acronym. The DOE, other agencies, and states are singular nouns, and the possessive “its” should be used with them, rather than “theirs.” Avoid this by substituting a plural noun, such as “state officials” for the singular noun.  Correct: “The DOE is ensuring that its students are ready for success.”  Incorrect: “The DOE is ensuring that their students are ready for success.” New York State Education Department (NYSED) When referring to the New York State Education Department, spell out and capitalize each word upon first reference. Upon second reference, you may abbreviate it as “NYSED,” without the word “the” before the acronym. Parents Association (PA)/Parent Teacher Association (PTA) The terms “Parents Association” and “Parent Teacher Association” should be capitalized and may be abbreviated as “PA” and “PTA” upon second reference. Passive Voice Avoid this whenever possible, because it leads to dry, stilted writing with extra jargon. Try to rewrite sentences using active voice. Active writing—even when dealing with non-narrative subjects not concerned with action—is almost always more lively, clear, and compelling.  Passive voice: “The assignments were handed out by teachers.”  Active voice: “Teachers handed out the assignments.” Using too many “to be” verbs (i.e., is, are, was, to be) can contribute to the problem of passive writing—try replacing these verbs with stronger, more descriptive ones. Note the difference between the following paragraphs:  Passive voice: “Jenny was sad that her score on the science exam was 50 percent. There were a great number of subjects covered on the test. The reason that Jenny failed the test was that she was watching a movie until midnight instead of studying. She knew she should have studied the formula that was formulated by Einstein in order to get a score that would be acceptable to her mother.”  Active voice: “Jenny’s score of 70 percent on the science exam devastated her. The test covered many subjects. By watching a movie until midnight instead of studying, Jenny jeopardized her performance on the test. She knew she should have studied Einstein’s formula in order to achieve a score her mother would accept.”


Note: Microsoft Word offers the option to alter your grammar and spellcheck preferences to detect passive voice in your writing. To change these options, click on “File” on the Home Bar, then “Options” on the left sidebar, and select “Proofing.” Change your proofing settings by clicking on “Settings” and then checking off “Passive Voice” as an option for “Style.” Percent For percentages, use a numeral and write out the word “percent” (e.g., The City’s graduation rate is 63 percent.). In charts or figures, use a “%” symbol. Please note that there is a big difference between “percent” and “percentage points.” Going from 6% to 3% is a decline of 50% OR of three percentage points, but it is NOT a decline of 3%. If you are ever noting a difference between two percentages, the correct term is “percentage points” (e.g., The school’s graduation rate increased from 80 percent to 87 percent, an increase of seven percentage points.) On second reference it is acceptable to write “points.” Period Always use a period to indicate where a complete sentence ends. Some additional rules about using periods:  If a sentence ends in a parenthesis, the period goes outside the parentheses (just like in this sentence).  If a sentence ends in quotation marks, the period goes inside the quotation marks (e.g. Ms. Taylor told her class, “Quiet down.”). Note: in the prior example, there is a period inside the quotation marks to show where the example sentence ends, and outside of the parenthesis to show where the entire sentence ends. Possessives Use an apostrophe to form possessives. Some guidelines for using possessive forms:  To form the possessive of a singular noun: add an apostrophe and an “s” (e.g., teacher becomes teacher’s).  Use the normal possessive ending of apostrophe and an “s” after singular words or names that end in “s” (e.g., boss's, caucus's, Jones's, Dickens’s).  To form the possessive of a plural noun: If the plural noun doesn’t end in “s”, add an apostrophe and an “s” (e.g., the children’s learning styles). If the plural noun ends in an “s” or a “z”-sound, just add an apostrophe (e.g., the girls’ and boys’ room).  If two people own something jointly, attach an apostrophe and an “s” to the subject closest to the object (e.g., the Mayor and the Chancellor’s initiative). PowerPoint Formatting Use slides with the DOE logo for all formal PowerPoint presentations. Capitalize all slide and chart titles in PowerPoint presentations (see Capitalization entry for rules about capitalizing titles). Pre-Kindergarten The term “pre-kindergarten” contains a hyphen; do not capitalize the term unless used in a title or at the start of a sentence. You may abbreviate it as “pre-k” upon second reference. When using the term “pre-k” in a title, capitalize the “k.” For example, “The pre-k students’ parents were delighted to receive their Guiding Your Student through Pre-K handbook.” Professional Development (PD) Do not capitalize the term “professional development,” but you may abbreviate it as “PD” (no periods) upon second reference. Progress Report (PR) Always capitalize the term “Progress Report.” You may abbreviate it as “PR” (no periods) upon second reference in informal documents only.


Publication Titles Capitalize and italicize all publication titles, whether internally or externally produced (e.g., The New York Times, School Support Weekly, I Teach NYC). Quality Review (QR) Always capitalize the term “Quality Review.” You may abbreviate it as “QR” (no periods) upon second reference in informal documents only. Do not capitalize the “r” in “rubric” when referring to the Quality Review rubric. Quotation Marks Use quotation marks to denote language that has come from somebody else. Here are some rules to remember:  In most cases, introduce a quotation with a comma or a colon, and include a closing punctuation mark before the final quotation mark. You can use a colon to introduce a quotation when the words before the colon are an independent clause. Any quoted text following a form of the verb “to say” requires a comma before the quotation. All of the following are correct: o “Mrs. Smith said, ‘Remember to do your homework.’” o “Mrs. Smith exclaimed, ‘I can’t believe you forgot your homework!’” o “Mrs. Smith asked, ‘Did you remember your homework?’” o “Mrs. Smith lectured the students about responsibility: ‘It’s important to remember your homework every day.’”  If the quotation fits into the flow of your sentence without a pause, and is not introduced with a form of the verb to say, you may not need to introduce it with a comma or a colon (e.g., T.S. Eliot called April “the cruelest month.”).  If there is a quotation within a quotation, set it off with single quotation marks (e.g., Chancellor Fariña said, “President Obama called New York City’s gains on the math exam the ‘most impressive’ in the nation.”).  You can also use quotation marks to indicate the titles of shorter works, like newspaper articles, poems, or chapter titles. Response to Intervention (RtI) Capitalize the term “Response to Intervention” as it is in this entry; you may abbreviate it as “RtI” upon second reference. School Leaders Use the term “school leaders” in place of “administrators,” which has an authoritative, supervisory connotation. “School leaders” generally encompasses principals and assistant principals. School Leadership Team (SLT) Capitalize the term “School Leadership Team.” You may be abbreviate it as “SLT” upon second reference. School Names Whenever the terms “Public School,” “Intermediate School,” or “Middle School” are abbreviated as part of school names, capitalize them and include periods (e.g., P.S. 123, M.S. 123, I.S. 123). School names are a rare exception to the acronym rule in that you may abbreviate them on first reference. In formal documents, spell out the word “high school” (e.g., Brooklyn Technical High School). In informal documents, you may abbreviate it as “HS,” without periods between the letters. In some cases, there are schools that have the same number and are located in different boroughs. Whenever possible, add the school’s location to avoid confusion (e.g., P.S. 8 in Washington Heights).


Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (STEM) The study of or careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are sometimes abbreviated as “STEM.” Always spell out the term in lower case upon first reference and then you may abbreviate it as “STEM” upon second reference. Semicolon The semicolon is like a weak period or a strong comma. Follow a semicolon with one space and start the next word with a lowercase letter. Only use a capital letter if the next word is a proper noun. Other ways you can use a semicolon include:  Joining two independent clauses (a phrase is an independent clause if it can stand alone as its own sentence) instead of using a conjunction (i.e., and, but, or, nor, for, yet, so). Instead of writing “The pencils were due to arrive last week, but they arrived today,” you can write “The pencils were due to arrive last week; they arrived today.”  Following a conjunctive adverb (i.e., however, therefore, in addition, meanwhile) to join two independent clauses (e.g., I used to teach English; however, I recently decided to teach math.).  Separating lists of items that are long and complicated or contain commas (e.g., The candidate campaigned in Manchester, NH; Boston, MA; and Baltimore, MD.). Space One space (not two) goes between each sentence. You should also use one space after every comma, colon, and semicolon. Special Education Do not capitalize the term “special education” unless it is use in a title.  Incorrect: “The principal discussed Special Education with parents.”  Correct: “The principal discussed special education with parents.” Do not abbreviate this term as “SPED” in formal documents. Please note the guidance about how to refer with students with disabilities. Special Education Reform Refer to the special education reform initiative as A Shared Path to Success, always in italics. Staff “Staff” is a singular noun and should be followed by singular verbs (e.g., The school’s staff stays in the classroom.). If you want to use a plural verb, use “staff members” (e.g., Staff members teach in the classroom.). State Capitalize the word “state” when it refers to New York State (e.g., The State must send us billions of dollars in additional education aid). Do not capitalize the word “state” when it refers to other states. Student/Students Take care to be consistent with singular/plural usage when referring to “student” or “students,” and “parent/guardian” or “parents/guardians.” Furthermore, if you choose to refer to “students,” you should refer to “parents” because these children have many parents. If you refer to “student” in the singular voice, you should use the singular voice for his or her parent as well, with the option to include an “s” in parentheses since one child may have multiple parents. For example, “The student’s parent(s) must sign this permission slip.” See the Child/Children entry for additional examples.


Students with Disabilities Do not capitalize the term “students with disabilities” unless you are using it in the title of a document or when referring to the Division of Students with Disabilities and English Language Learners. After first mention in a formal document (spelled out completely), you may abbreviate it as “SwD.” Students with disabilities are also sometimes called “Students with IEPs” (see IEP entry for formatting rules); do not refer to them as “special needs students” or “special education students.” Superintendent Do not capitalize the word superintendent unless it is the first word in a sentence, or you are referring to a specific superintendent by name.  Incorrect: “Next month, Superintendents will present to the CECs.”  Correct: “All superintendents must reply by the end of September. Principal Davis gave Superintendent Jones a document.” Note that there are different types of superintendents, including community superintendents and high school superintendents. These terms should also be lowercase unless being used directly before a specific community superintendent or high school superintendent’s name (e.g., Queens High School Superintendent Juan Mendez). You may abbreviate “superintendent” as “supt.” in informal documents only. That/Which Use the relative pronouns “who” and “which” in place of “that” in formal documents, and place a comma before them. For example, the following sentences are both formally correct:  “The café, which sells the bests coffee in town, has recently been closed.”  “The teacher, who was highly effective, was also loved by his students.” They “They” is a plural pronoun. Do not use it with an antecedent that requires a singular pronoun, and do not use it to replace either “he” or “she” because these words are never interchangeable. Expressions such as “each,” “each one,” “everybody,” “every one,” and “which” all require singular pronouns (he or she). Similarly, the expressions “anybody,” “any one,” “somebody,” and “someone” all also require singular pronouns—either use “he,” “she,” or “he or she.”  Incorrect: “If your child studies hard, they will get a good grade.” (“Your child” is singular, “they” is plural.)  Correct: “If your child studies hard, she will get a good grade.” Time Always include minutes in the time and use two periods when using the terms “a.m.” and “p.m.” (e.g., 8:20 a.m.). When indicating a time range, separate two times by an en dash (see Dash entry). If the two times are both in the morning or afternoon, only write “a.m.” or “p.m.” after the second time. For example, “8:00–9:00 a.m.” or “8:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.” are both correct; “8:00 a.m.–9:00 a.m.” is incorrect because you do not need the first “a.m.”. Underline You can underline the title or sub-sections of your document, but avoid over-emphasizing text in the middle of sentences or paragraphs with underlined text (or different-colored, bold, or italicized text). Too much underlining can defeat the purpose of such formatting (to highlight an important point). United Federation of Teachers (UFT) “The United Federation of Teachers” is the formal name of the teachers’ union. Spell out the full name on first reference. The second reference can be “UFT” or “teachers’ union.”


Universal Prekindergarten (UPK) When referring to the State’s Universal Prekindergarten program, do not add a hyphen in “pre-kindergarten.” Capitalize this term and abbreviate it as “UPK” upon second reference. Note that this rule is different than the guidance given for the use of the term pre-kindergarten alone, which includes a hyphen. Verbs 1. Pay attention to verb-noun agreement, particularly when using indefinite pronouns, which substitute nouns without referring to a specific person place or thing. Some rules of thumb:  Most indefinite pronouns (including “each,” “either,” “neither,” “someone,” “somebody,” “anyone,” “anybody,” “everyone,” “everybody,” “no one,” “nobody,” and “one”) take singular verbs (e.g., Each kindergartener was reading; neither walks to school.).  Since these pronouns are singular, when they are used to refer to people, they should be followed by singular personal pronouns later in the sentence; “each,” “every,” “any,” and “either” are all followed by “he” or “she,” not “they” (e.g., Each student completes his assignment every day. Every student sharpens her pencil.).  Fraction or percent words (“percent,” “all,” “most,” “more,” “part,” “some,” “such,” “rest,” “any,” and “none”) take plural verbs (e.g., Only 50 percent graduate in four years. Some attend summer school.).  When the word “none” precedes a singular noun, use a singular verb. When it precedes a plural noun, use a plural verb (e.g., None of the homework was completed. None of the students ate apples.”). 2. Parallel construction rules require that expressions of similar content and function be constructed similarly. This allows the reader to recognize the similarity easily. Here are some rules to keep in mind:  Items in a list should all take the same grammatical form: they should be all nouns, all infinitives, all prepositional phrases, all gerunds (verbs ending in –ing), or all clauses. o Incorrect: “Mrs. Jones taught her first graders fractions, to speak English properly, and biology.” o Correct: “Mrs. Jones taught her first graders fractions, proper English, and biology.” In the second example, all items in the list are nouns.  A preposition or article that introduces a list should be correct for all items in the list. If items in the list take different prepositions or articles, you should include them with each item in the list. To check this, see if introducing each individual item in the list with the preposition or article would make sense. o Incorrect: “I study every day at 9:00 a.m. and the afternoon.” (You wouldn’t say “at the afternoon.”) o Correct: “I study every day at 9:00 a.m. and in the afternoon. o Incorrect: “I am excited and interested in your work.” (You wouldn’t say “excited in.”) o Correct: “I am excited about and interested in your work.”  Correlative expressions (e.g., both/and, not/but, not only/but also, either/or, first/second/third, etc.) should be followed by the same grammatical construction. o Incorrect: “It was both a long day and very boring.” o Correct: “The day was both long and boring”. o Incorrect: “Either the state must raise its standards or adopt the higher national standards.” o Correct: “The state must either raise its standards or adopt the higher national standards.” o Also correct: “Either the state must raise its standards or it must adopt the higher national standards.” 3. If you are using an infinitive in a sentence (a verb that is not conjugated, beginning with “to”), you cannot separate the two parts of the verb (the “to” and the verb). o Incorrect: to happily go, to purposefully ignore, to accurately maintain, to continually improve. o Correct: to go happily, to ignore purposefully, to maintain accurately, to improve continually. Remember, Shakespeare wrote, “To be or not to be!” Web The word “web” may be lowercase, but always capitalize the word “Internet.”


Website  “Website” is one word; do not capitalize it unless you are using it at the start of a sentence.  Whenever you are referring audiences to a website, be sure to format it as a hyperlink (underlined, in blue font). It should begin with “www.” Do not include http://.  Remove any extraneous jargon from the end of a hyperlink (i.e., /default and .htm are usually unnecessary). Test the entire hyperlink before finalizing your draft by clicking. For example, http://schools.nyc.gov/ChoicesEnrollment/default.htm becomes schools.nyc.gov/ChoicesEnrollment.  City policy stipulates that only the website “www.NYC.gov” be included in formal documents. In smaller, informal documents, you may use the DOE website, “www.schools.nyc.gov.” o Contact the Press Office to request that a keyword be tagged on the NYC.gov homepage to enable website visitors to search for the desired DOE webpage. Weekly Newsletters Italicize the titles of all weekly newsletters: School Support Weekly, Principals’ Weekly, and Superintendents’ Weekly. You may abbreviate School Support Weekly and Principals’ Weekly as “SSW” and “PW” upon second reference. Note that Principals’ Weekly and Superintendents’ Weekly are both referencing principals and superintendents in the plural form, therefore it is important to place the apostrophe after the “s.” Who/Whom “Who” is the subject of a sentence (performs the action), and “whom” is the object of a sentence (receives the action). An easy way to remember this is to answer the question in your sentence. If the answer can be “him,” which also ends in an “m,” you should use “whom” (e.g., Sam, who hates calculating fractions, failed his math test. Whom did you interrogate?).


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