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Communications Guidelines

This style guide covers basic guidelines used by the University Relations office when producing promotional materials. Members of the VIU community are encouraged to use this guide for reference when producing materials for students, potential students, employees, and members of the public.

Use of the name Vancouver Island University

Our institution is now referred to as Vancouver Island University. When it is necessary to refer to a specific campus, it can be referred to as Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo campus, Cowichan campus, Powell River campus or Parksville/Qualicum campus. The abbreviation VIU is used after the full name of the institution has been spelled out.

At Vancouver Island University, it's easy to love where you learn. Students at VIU have access to many learning advantages including study abroad programs and undergraduate research opportunities.


In a formal context, such as letters, there is a tendency to capitalize all titles, departments, etc.; however, in general publications we use an informal approach to capitalization. Reader surveys have shown that liberal use of capitalization makes a document harder to read, especially in a publication with narrow columns.

Instead of:

The Early Education and Care Program Coordinator and the Child and Youth Care Instructor made a joint presentation to the Chair of the Instructional Management Committee on the type of facilities needed for the new Child Care Centres at the Cowichan Campus.

We would use capitals, as follows:

The Early Education and Care program coordinator and the Child and Youth Care instructor made a joint presentation to the chair of the Instructional Management committee on the type of facilities needed for the new Child Care Centres at the Cowichan campus.

Titles of the President, Board Chair, and all Deans are capitalized when they precede a name. Beyond that, our practice is to capitalize the components of a title, department, program, or committee that distinguish it from other titles, departments, programs, or committees. For example, we capitalize the name of a program, but not the word "program" itself.

the Hospitality Management program

Dental Hygiene program chair Mandy Hayre

the Printing and Duplicating department

We capitalize the name of an academic discipline when referring to a department or a course number (the Criminology department, Criminology 101) but not when referring to the subject generally (she is taking criminology; you should take criminology courses).

Note: All news releases produced by the University Relations office conform to the Canadian Press Stylebook, which uses capitalization sparingly.


We use English spelling on "our" and "re" words (e.g. labour, theatre), but American spelling on other words such as "recognize" (instead of recognise) and "program" (instead of programme).

We use a double "l" for past-tense of single "l" words:

cancel, cancelled, cancellation

counsel, counselled, counselling

enrol, enrolled, but enrolment


We use periods when abbreviating places (Rd., L.A.) and titles (Dr., Mr., Mrs., Ms.). We do not use periods for most acronyms (CUPE, BCGEU, MCFA, IMC, UVic), or for time (am, pm).

According to standard grammar usage guidelines, place abbreviations are displayed using periods (e.g. B.C.).   For stylistic reasons we often display our provincial abbreviation as BC—both usages can be considered correct for our purposes. The choice of BC or B.C. is up to the author; however, consistency should be maintained throughout the document.


It is the context which determines if a degree is spelled out or used in its abbreviated form.

We use the lower case spelling and the inclusion of apostrophes when describing degrees in their long form:

  • VIU offers many baccalaureate degree options
  • She holds a bachelor's degree in English and is working towards a master's degree
  • She holds a bachelor of arts degree in English
  • He earned a bachelor's degree in biology
  • The Faculty of Management conferred it's master's degrees at the winter convocation

We follow the rules of the Canadian Press Style book regarding the use of periods in abbreviations of degrees:

  • Omit periods in all-capital abbreviations of degree names: BA, MA, MBA
  • Mixed abbreviations take periods: B.Comm., B.Sc.
  • Mixed abbreviations that begin and end with a capital letter do not take periods: PhD

If you are introducing a degree with an article, use the article appropriate for pronunciation rather than the written form:

  • an MBA (pronounced em.b.a)
  • a master's degree
  • a BA

Italics and Bolding

We use italics for the names of books, magazines, plays, courses, conferences, reports, etc. (Les Belles Soeurs, Nexus, Enrolment Effectiveness Measures). Although some style guides recommend the use of underlining for some of these categories, the availability of italics in most word processing programs eliminates the need for underlining, which is used as a substitute for italics on a typewriter and can look unprofessional when letters hang down over the line. Another good substitute for underlining is to bold words or sentences that need emphasis.


We enclose non-essential clauses with commas on both sides:

Ralph Nilson, president of Vancouver Island University, presented the awards.

Names after titles or job descriptions are not enclosed in commas:

President Ralph Nilson will present the awards.

When a title or job description is followed by a modifier - an article or adjective - it becomes an appositive and the name following it is enclosed in commas:

The president of Vancouver Island University, Ralph Nilson, presented the awards.

We put hyphens between compound adjectives and compound nouns:

It is a second-year course. A $2-million budget.

We do not use hyphens for words with prefixes unless better clarity is achieved by doing so:

prerequisite, coordinator, subcommittee; but re-enrol, part-time, post-secondary.

Numbers, Dates and Time

We spell out numbers under 10, and use numerical values for all others, except millions.

More than 26 students enrolled in the course; nine failed. Use one million, but 2.6 million, a $2-million budget.

Exceptions are for decimal point numbers, time, ages, and page numbers.

a 2.1 per cent increase; 1:30 pm;
ages 7 and 8
; continued on page 3.

Use commas to set off the year in complete dates.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

We don't use "th" or other endings of dates, as in April 12th.

You are invited to forums on March 23, April 22, and May 29.

Using zeroes when referring to time and money is redundant.

8:30 am to 9 pm (not 9:00 pm)
$15 (not $15.00)


We use the full name and sometimes a title on first reference, and last name only on all other references.

President Ralph Nilson presented the awards. Nilson praised the recipients for their achievements.

Gender-Neutral Language

We recommend that reports and documents which are produced by the University be written in a gender-neutral style. The University Relations office has attempted to remove gender-specific language from all the communications we produce. The following examples have been taken from and/or inspired by the BC Government's Gender-Neutral Language Guide, September 1991, and are meant as a general guide for VIU communications.

Instead of: Try:
businessman/businesswoman business executive/businessperson
chairman chair, chairperson
draftsman drafter, draftsperson
fireman firefighter
handyman, repairman repairperson, caretaker
he/she they, students
housewife homemaker
mailman letter carrier
man (noun) people, person, individual
man (verb) staff, operate, serve at/on
master of ceremonies emcee, host
middleman go-between, intermediary
mankind humanity
man-hours worker-hours, staff time, resources
man-made artificial, synthetic, handmade
manpower staff, employees, personnel
policeman police officer
spokesman/spokeswoman spokesperson
tradesman tradesperson
workman worker

Rapidly Changing Terms of Technology

To check the spelling for terms in the rapidly evolving areas of technology and computing use the Free Online Dictionary of Computing as the standard.

VIU Logo

The logo is the official, legal trademark and graphic symbol of Vancouver Island University and may be used only in approved form.

The logo consists of a mountains and ocean graphic and the signature "Vancouver Island" set in Adobe Jensen Pro Semibold and "University" set in Futura Medium. The logo is available in a variety of formats in colour and black and white versions.

Camera-ready copies of the logo and information about its use are available from the University Relations department, local 6344.

If you have any questions or comments about this style guide please contact the University Relations office.