Copy Editing Notes
As school bells ring, buses roll and kids everywhere trot back to school, let’s go over some style notes that will make your education-related stories more error-free! Who knows, you might even get straight-A’s!
Know your titles: LAKANA style is to capitalize “principal” when it comes before a name, just like
Going to kindergarten: Kindergarten is easily the most misspelled word in all of education. If you remind yourself to “stay out of the garden,” you’ll avoid the most common mistake. It’s also not capitalized, although pre-K is, using the same rule that makes us capitalize T-shirt and U-turn.
Riding the bus: The plural of bus is buses. Busses are kisses, and while they’re great, they won’t get the kids to school on time.
Making the grade: Remember that grades follow the AP rule for ordinal numbers. Thus, anything under 10th grade is spelled out: ninth grade, first grade, etc. You’ll likely refer to high school students as freshmen, sophomores, etc. Remember that “freshmen” is the plural, although as a group they’re the “freshman class.” A member of a specific grade needs a hyphen to describe them: a fourth-grade student … a fourth-grader … etc.
Know your subjects: School subjects follow the general AP rules for capitalization. That means that chemistry and biology aren’t capitalized, but English and Spanish are. This goes for departments, too, unless they’re proper names. So the local high school math department doesn’t get capitalized, but the Rice University School of Mathematics does.
Call the doctor: This comes up more in university settings, but you’ll frequently come across someone who has a doctorate in something other than medicine. If that doctorate is not an M.D. or related medical degree (D.O., D.D.S., etc.), you must clarify the person’s specialty on first or second reference. For example, you might say: “Dr. Bilbo Baggins, who received a doctorate in Hobbit hole construction mechanics ….”
Pass/fail: Back in the dark ages (the ‘70s), 60 was the lowest passing grade pretty much everywhere. Many school systems now have moved away from this, with some using 70 and others using a variety of different targets. Be sure you know what constitutes passing in your local districts before you write stories that concern this topic. Also, for those smart kids, terms like honor roll and dean’s list are left uncapped.
School security: It’s a sad fact that most school systems now have some form of security officer on site. Some districts have their own police forces, some use local law enforcement and some contract with private companies. In some cases, it’s a combination of these. Be sure you know the security structure of your local schools.
What year is it? Remember that for school years, you use the format XXXX-XX, so the current school year would be 2017-18.
That’s all! Class dismissed! Now get out there and have a great school year!