Do you have style?

When we are starting work with a new client on a large project, such as a 5th year report or a reaffirmation, we always ask about a style guide. This is important for a large document with multiple authors. The style guide controls how your institution’s name shows up in print (and how it is never to show up), formatting for dates, acceptable names within your academic year (are semester and term interchangeable?), and many more.

We recommend that you start the style guide with the following items.

  1. Institution name: first time in each narrative and each time it is mentioned after the first.
  2. Is it the Catalog, Catalog and Student Handbook, or something different? It is italicized? What is the “Catalog of record”…the academic year catalog that all narratives should reference?
  3. Term or semester? What abbreviations are acceptable?
  4. Formatting of dates…is “fall 22” acceptable, or does it need to be “fall 2022”?
  5. Are they board policies or board of trustee policies? Is board capitalized? Are they ever the BOT? Do the policies belong to the board…”board of trustees’ policy”?
  6. How will you reference Institutional Policy or Procedure?
  7. How will you reference state law? Where is the one place to go find the pertinent legislation so all state law references look the same?
  8. Single spacing with indented paragraphs, no indenting with a hard return between paragraphs, or something different?
  9. What is the naming convention for tables and how will you reference them in the text? We love tables here at Southeastern Accreditation Consultants.
  10. The word “data” is plural…”The data are…”, “The data indicate…”, etc.

There are more, but that will get you started. When you are ready for a passionate debate, gather a diverse group of educators and discuss the merits (or lack thereof) of the Oxford comma.

The development of your style guide should involve a varied group of people, but the biggest voice should be those who will have the task of completing the final edit. A well-constructed and strictly-enforced style guide will save tons of work throughout the process.

Next month we will talk about organizing your supporting documents…

At Southeastern Accreditation Consultants, we’re ready to collaborate and support your accreditation and strategic planning efforts. From reviewing narratives to building your documentation, we offer individualized services to best meet your needs. Contact us to get started.

Published by Douglas A. Wymer

Throughout an academic career spanning nearly 20 years, Dr. Wymer participated in many site visits (both substantive change and reaffirmation visits) for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) and he has been a visiting team member for the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges with the Western Association of Colleges and Schools. In addition to serving as a team member, Dr. Wymer has served as a visiting committee chair for SACSCOC. After earning a B.S. in Biology (with a minor in Chemistry) from what was then Shorter College, an M.S. in Entomology from Clemson University, and a Ph.D. in Environmental Science from Tennessee Technological University, Dr. Wymer started a rewarding career in academia. He earned tenure and achieved the rank of Associate Professor of Environmental Sciences at The University of West Alabama and served in a number of administrative roles at UWA including Department Chair and Assistant Dean. He served as a Department Head at Pensacola State College and, after a year in that position, was promoted to Dean of Baccalaureate Studies and Academic Support. In 2016 he became the Vice President of Academic Affairs at Lake-Sumter State College, where he served for four years before launching Southeastern Accreditation Consultants.

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