Critical. Subversive. Irrepressible.


Critical. Subversive. Irrepressible.


Critical. Subversive. Irrepressible.


AWOL Style Guide

AWOL follows AP guidelines for all grammatical and style decisions aside from those defined in this guide. 

AWOL reporters should focus on “person-centric” journalism and should use good judgment in determining when to ask individuals questions about their identity. How people define themselves will play an integral role in how they will be referred to in any AWOL story.



In general, spell out one through nine: The Yankees finished second. He had nine months to go. Use figures for 10 or above and whenever preceding a unit of measure or referring to ages of people, animals, events or things. Also in all tabular matter, and in statistical and sequential forms. Spell out numbers at the beginning of a sentence.

Below are a few other examples of style issues and how certain numbers should be written.

  • Ages: a 6-year-old girl; John Doe, 54,
  • Time: 10:30 a.m. 
  • Dates, Years and Decades: Feb. 8, 2007, Class of ’66, the 1950s.
  • Etc.


Capitalize the names of months in all uses. When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. Spell out when using alone, or with a year alone.


In general, confine capitalization to formal titles used directly before an individual’s name.

Lowercase and spell out titles when they are not used with an individual’s name: The president issued a statement. The pope gave his blessing.

Lowercase and spell out titles in constructions that set them off from a name by commas: The vice president, Kamala Harris, was elected in 2020. Pope Francis, the current pope, was born in Argentina.

Capitalize formal titles when they are used immediately before one or more names: Pope Francis, President Joe Biden, Vice Presidents Yukari Nakamura and Vanessa Smith.

The following formal titles are capitalized and abbreviated as shown when used before a name both inside and outside quotations: Dr., Gov., Lt. Gov., Rep., Sen.


The format should be either:

  • “The addition of an allergen friendly station in TDR really helped me to feel welcome at AU,” Smith said. 
  • “The addition of an allergen friendly station in TDR really helped me to feel welcome at AU,” said Smith, a student with celiac disease.

The first example is preferred. Generally, you should introduce the person’s title or contextualize their importance in the article beforehand along with their full name.

  • John Smith, who has celiac disease, said that he was initially worried about dining at TDR because of cross contamination.

“The addition of an allergen friendly station in TDR really helped me to feel welcome at AU,” Smith said. 

When a quote contains two or more sentences the attribution should go after the first sentence.

  • “The addition of an allergen friendly station in TDR really helped me to feel welcome at AU,” Smith said. “I was worried about college dining options because of how cross contamination could impact me.”

Correct: “With half the country’s jobs at risk, we can expect a massive spike in the number of people falling behind on their bills and becoming at risk for debt collection suits,” Levinson-Waldman said.

Correct: “With half the country’s jobs at risk, we can expect a massive spike in the number of people falling behind on their bills and becoming at risk for debt collection suits,” said Ariel Levinson-Waldman, founding president and director-counsel of Tzedek D.C.

Incorrect: “With half the country’s jobs at risk, we can expect a massive spike in the number of people falling behind on their bills and becoming at risk for debt collection suits,” said Levinson-Waldman.

Incorrect: “With half the country’s jobs at risk, we can expect a massive spike in the number of people falling behind on their bills and becoming at risk for debt collection suits,” Ariel Levinson-Waldman, founding president and director-counsel of Tzedek D.C., said.


Do not use the oxford comma.

Follow AP Style rules for commas. Note the following entry on use with conjunctions:

“When a conjunction such as and, but or for links two clauses that could stand alone as separate sentences, use a comma before the conjunction in most cases: She was glad she had looked, for a man was approaching the house.

As a rule of thumb, use a comma if the subject of each clause is expressly stated: We are visiting Washington, and we also plan a side trip to Williamsburg. We visited Washington, and our senator greeted us personally. But no comma when the subject of the two clauses is the same and is not repeated in the second: “We are visiting Washington and plan to see the White House.”


Spell out all names/terms on first reference when referring to American University specific acronyms. Do not use parentheses to provide the full acronym. 

The abbreviations below can be used on second reference:

  • ASAC: Academic Support and Access Center
  • ATV: American University Television
  • AU: American University
  • AUSG: American University Student Government
  • The Bridge: The Bridge Cafe
  • CAS: College of Arts and Sciences
  • CASE: Center for Assistance with Services and Equity
  • CDI: Center for Diversity and Inclusion
  • CSI: The Center for Student Involvement
  • The Dav: The Davenport Coffee Lounge
  • DR: Desk Receptionist
  • FYRE: First Year Residential Experience
  • HRL: Housing & Residence Life
  • Kogod: Kogod School of Business
  • MGC: Mary Graydon Center (no the)
  • OASIS: Office of Advocacy Services for Interpersonal and Sexual Violence
  • RA: Resident Assistants
  • RHA: Residence Hall Association
  • SIS: School of International Service
  • SOC: School of Communication
  • SOE: School of Education
  • SPA: School of Public Affairs
  • STEP: Summer Transition Enrichment Program
  • TDR: Terrace Dining Room
  • WCL: Washington College of Law

Acronyms do not need introduction and should be used as in the example below:

The College of Arts and Sciences is introducing several new majors next semester.

There are currently 58 undergraduate degrees offered in CAS, but with the new additions this number could grow to over 60.


Reserve “Dr.” for medical doctors only. Include a source’s education level if it is pertinent to the story or establishes their credibility.


If speaking about the community as a whole, use identity first language (disabled people, autistic people, etc). For individuals, always ask what term they prefer.


Ask sources their pronouns at the beginning of any interview. Use pronouns without an explanation unless pronouns are not as widely known. In such instances, explain in the story what those terms mean.

Be sure to check with the person you are interviewing that they are comfortable with their gender identity and/or sexuality being published. Ask individuals for their preferred gender/sexual identity and use that terminology. Explain in the article only if the term is not widely known.

Gender refers to internal and social identity and often corresponds with but is not synonymous with sex. Experts say gender is a spectrum, not a binary structure consisting of only males and females, that can vary by society and change over time.

Both LGBTQ+ and gender-nonconforming are acceptable general terms.

In general, do not refer to individuals as being LGBTQ+ or gender-nonconforming.

  • Avoid using the term “community.” 
  • Use the term LGBTQ+ unless quoting or referencing titles. 
  • If someone is gay and it is relevant to the story, say “X, who is X.” 
  • “Openly gay” should not be an umbrella term


Refer to the use of substances such as drugs or alcohol as substance use or addiction.

Avoid terms such as “addict” or derogatory terms such as “junkie” or “druggie” unless quoting a source directly. Instead, refer to that individual as “X, who uses X” when pertinent to the context of the article.

Avoid phrases such as “struggles with addiction.” Use neutral phrases or direct quotes instead.


When possible, use specific language to discuss homelessness. Remember that people are defined by more than their socioeconomic status, work to reflect this when writing.

Use “People experiencing homelessness” rather than “the homeless.” 

For further guidance see The Homeless Crisis Reporting Project.


The AP Style Israel-Hamas Topical Guide is “calling the present conflict between Israel and the militant Palestinian group Hamas a war, given the widespread and ongoing nature of military operations in Israel and Gaza.” The guide also recognizes the antecedent context of a 75-year Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Palestinian conflict. AWOL is following that guidance in our reporting.


Avoid using swear words when possible. Do not use them outside of direct quotes. When quoting obscenities follow AP style guidelines: f—, s—, etc.

For slurs see the entry within Race and Ethnicity.


Identify race when it is pertinent to the story. Race or ethnicity is pertinent to the story if the inclusion or exclusion of a person or a group’s race or ethnicity changes the point of the story. Writers are encouraged to have conversations with editors if they need more guidance. 

  • Follow AP style capitalization of race. 
  • Use “Latinx” when referring to people of Latin descent unless otherwise defined by the interviewee. 
  • Refer to people with indigenous heritage by their specific tribe if known. If unknown, use Indigenous or “Indigenous to the area that is now known as X” if possible.
  • Use the term BIPOC over POC. On first reference, explain the full term: Black, indigenous and people of color. From second reference on, use BIPOC. Be specific about which race or races are affected when possible.
  • Use DREAMers following the capitalization of the DREAM Act.

In situations that are explicitly racist, use “racist” and not “racially charged” or similar phrases. In situations where the role of race is more ambiguous, include all the facts and let sources be the ones to qualify the situation as “racist” or not.


Use the first letter of the word, hyphen, and then “word” for slurs (i.e. “n-word”) and then explain what group the slur targets. 


When writing about sexual assault, include a specific content warning. For example: Warning: graphic description of sexual assault, or description of sexual assault.

Refer to someone who has been sexually assaulted as “survivor.” 

  • When referring to an individual who has spoken about their experiences but whose story cannot be verified, use alleged survivor if absolutely necessary, but avoid when possible. Favor person-centric language that highlights the subject of the story. 
  • Avoid “accuser.” 

Avoid “claims” and “alleges”, just use “said.”

For legal purposes, when a story has legal implications or has not been decided within the legal system, use “alleged” when necessary. Use sparingly.


Per AP Style, use “Washington” on first reference, and “Washington” or “the district” for all subsequent references. “D.C.” is also acceptable.

When referring to the different Wards, there is no need to spell out the numbers. (i.e. Ward 8 is acceptable).


Do not use datelines in our stories. 

Use “impact” as a noun or a verb, following common usage.

Use “toward” without an s (not “towards”)

Use “amid” or “in the midst of” (not amidst)


When an integral source to a story does not respond to comment, refer to the chart guide below.

For breaking stories, use “did not immediately respond to a request for comment.”

  • One request: “Did not respond to a request for comment.”
  • Two requests “Did not respond to requests for comment.”
  • 3+ requests “Did not respond to repeated requests for comment.”
  • If someone says “no comment”, say “X said ‘no comment.’” 
  • If someone refuses to comment, say “X declined to comment.” 
  • If someone does not respond to 1-2 requests for comment, then add a note on the story saying: This story will be updated. 
  • If someone does not respond directly to requests for comment, but does provide a public statement, use the correct qualifier depending on the number of requests you made, then add a section indicating what they stated in their public comment/press release. 

IE: Sylvia Burwell did not respond to repeated requests for comment but did make a public statement addressing X on Wednesday. 


In order to request a correction, email the Editor-In-Chief at [email protected]. Once a correction is filed, the Editor-In-Chief should respond in a timely fashion. Usually within 24 hours.

If there is a serious reporting error or critical change to the piece, a note detailing correction should be placed at the top of the piece. If a smaller correction is put in, relating to a date, quote or something else minor a note should be put at the bottom of the piece.

Corrections will follow the following format:

“Correction: This article was edited to _______ on xx/yy/zz at a:bc A/PM.”

Updates or other changes to the articles may follow different formats.

When a story is marked “This story will be updated” there will be a 1 month period in which a story will maintain the marker. In that time, if a response is received, it will be included in the story.