Agriculture Communication


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Style Guide for News Releases and Publications

Agriculture Communication Style Guide
for News Releases and Publications

In general, Ag Communication uses the “Associated Press Stylebook” to provide consistent, clear communication through the media and to the public.

News releases and publications are for targeted audiences in the public and are written much differently than journal articles, columns, scientific papers and other materials written by Agriculture and university Extension faculty and staff.

This style guide clarifies some AP styles that are often used (and misused) and communicates some styles specifically determined for NDSU Agriculture and Extension.

A/an – Use a before words beginning with a consonant sound (a historic place) or words that sound as though they begin with a w or u (a one-year term, a united stand). Use an before words, abbreviations and numbers starting with vowel sounds (an honorable man, an NDSU student, an 1890s celebration).


AcknowledgmentNote this does not have an e after the g.


AdviserUse adviser, not advisor. Even the American Society of Agronomy's Certified Crop Adviser Program is spelled this way.


Affect/effect – Affect, as a verb, means to influence. The weather will affect the harvest date. Avoid using affect as a noun. Effect, as a verb, means to cause. He will effect many changes in the department. Effect, as a noun, means result. The effect was overwhelming.


Afterward – Not afterwards


All right – Not alright.


Among/betweenAmong refers to more than two things or people and between refers to two things or people. The prize money was divided among the three top finishers. I couldn’t decide between the gray car or the blue one.


a.m./p.m. – Lowercase, with periods.


Backward – Not backwards.


Because/since - Use since to indicate the passing of time and because to refer to a cause-and-effect relationship. XYZ Co. has been in business since 1895. I decided to stay home from work today because I have a cold.

Board of Higher Education
– Capitalize when using as a proper name for the governmental agency. Everyone is waiting for a decision from the state Board of Higher Education. Lowercase in references to the board. No one knows why the board made the change.


Cellphone – One word.

Chair/head – A department chair is elected from among the faculty. A department head is appointed to the position after a search.

College of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Natural Resources – Note that a comma is used after Food Systems.

Comma – Use commas to separate elements in a series, but do not put a comma before the conjunction in a simple series. That producer raises wheat, barley, canola and lentils. Put a comma before the concluding conjunction in a series, however, if an integral element of the series requires a conjunction. I had orange juice, toast, and ham and eggs for breakfast. Use a comma in a complex series of phrases. Also use a comma in numerals greater than 1,000. The weed produces more than 7,000 seeds.

Compared to/compared with – Use compared to when indicating two or more things are similar. She compared her novel to Stephen King’s most recent book. Use compared with when talking about the differences between two or more things. He scored 395 points, compared with 380 points for his closest competitor.

Couple of – Use the of when referring to two people or things. He walked a couple of miles. I met a couple of friends at the mall.

Crops – Use plurals of words such as sugarbeets, oats, sunflowers and soybeans when writing for a general audience. He grows 100 acres of soybeans. Use the singular form in documents targeted for a scientific journal or similar publication that asks for that style in its own style guidelines.

Dates – Abbreviate months when used with a date. The battle ended Aug. 4, 1892. The meeting will be Oct. 6. Do not abbreviate months when they stand alone or are just with a year. December was a very good month. She returned in September 1999. Do not abbreviate March, April, May, June or July under any circumstances.

Department names – Uppercase department names. Ag Communication’s style is an exception to AP style to clarify official department names. “It’s a matter of timing,” said Becky Koch, Agriculture Communication director. Richard Horsley is head of NDSU’s Plant Sciences Department. Sam Markell is in Plant Pathology.

Dr. – Use only for individuals who hold a doctor of medicine degree. Ph.D. degrees do not meet this requirement. (See Ph.D. below.)

email – Not hyphenated.

Experiment Station – Capitalize in all uses when it refers to a specific organization, the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station. The Experiment Station received funding for greenhouses.

Extension – Capitalize in all uses when it refers to a specific organization, NDSU Extension. NDSU Extension publications are available. Schwartz has been with NDSU Extension for 26 years. They’ve used Extension material in the past. According to NDSU Extension food and nutrition specialists, ... . They view Extension’s county agents as valuable resources.

4-H’er – It stands for 4-H member. Capitalize the H and use an apostrophe to show the rest of the word member is missing. Use the numeral 4 rather than the word four, even at the beginning of a sentence.

fax – Lowercase all letters because it is considered a word, not an acronym.

Flyer – Use this to refer to a handout, not flier.

Hyphen – In general, use a hyphen when a compound modifier – two or more words that express a single concept – precedes a noun. Whole-grain foods are recommended for more fiber. Canola is grown in the north-central region of the U.S. Establish a three- to five-year management program. Do not use a hyphen with the adverb very and all adverbs that end in ly He had a very good time. She had an early morning meeting. You don’t need a hyphen when you use a modifier and the meaning is clear without the hyphen. Examples include chocolate chip cookie, climate change report, public land management, real estate transaction, emergency room visit, cat food bowl and parking lot entrance.

internet – Lowercase the word. The internet is the network that makes the web and email possible. The three words are not interchangeable.

Land-grant – Hyphenate when used as an adjective. North Dakota State University is a land-grant university. The National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges meeting is in February.

Numerals – In general, spell out whole numbers below 10, and use figures for 10 and above. However, numerals are used for many measurements. The new state fleet car gets 4 miles more per gallon. This is a 3-credit class. The farm measures 5 miles by 4 miles.

Percent – Use the symbol %, with no space between the number and %. The cost rose 4% in two years. The increases range from 5% to 7%.

Ph.D. – Use when necessary to specify the type of degree someone holds, such as when listing authors of Extension publications. Ph.D. is not used in newspapers or magazines, so do not use them in news releases.

Phone numbers – Use hyphens between number sets. For more information, contact Smith at 701-231-1234.

Publication names – Use the word publication, not circular or bulletin. Put quote marks around the official title of Extension publications. “Insects of Economic Importance” provides more information.

Regions – The official North Central Region recognized by the USDA is capitalized, but the general vicinity is not. Canola is grown in the north-central region of the U.S.

Research Extension Center – Capitalize in all uses because these words refer to a specific organization. The event will take place at the NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center. Range scientists at NDSU’s Dickinson Research Extension Center developed the technique. Research being done on livestock diets at NDSU’s Research Extension Centers will continue.

Official names: Agronomy Seed Farm (Casselton), Carrington Research Extension Center, Central Grasslands Research Extension Center (Streeter), Dickinson Research Extension Center, Hettinger Research Extension Center, Langdon Research Extension Center, North Central Research Extension Center (Minot), Williston Research Extension Center,

Smartphone – One word.

State – In general, add N.D. after towns/cities in the state. Use ND if in an address. Write out North Dakota if the words are part of an official name. Send the registration form to 204 5th Ave. W., Lisbon, ND 58054. The tornado hit a barn near Minot, N.D. The North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station will have its budget hearing next week.

Sugarbeet – For news releases and publications for the public, use as one word.

Temperature – Use figures followed by an F for Fahrenheit with a space between. Do not use the degree symbol. The temperature reached 90 F today.

Times – Use figures except for noon and midnight. The :00 isn’t necessary. The office is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The luncheon will be served at noon.

Titles – Capitalize official titles only directly before an individual’s name. The presentation was given by NDSU President Dean Bresciani . Lowercase titles when set off from a name by commas: Sean Brotherson, family science specialist, gave a presentation. According to Brian Jenks, weed scientist, the infestation levels are high. Lowercase job descriptions directly before an individual’s name: Research conducted by food scientist Sam Chang has been featured in the journal. In a list rather than a sentence, capitalize titles:

Dale Herman
Professor of Horticulture
Department of Plant Sciences


Feeding Distiller’s Dried Grains, Yuri Montanholi, Extension Beef Cattle Specialist, Department of Animal Sciences, North Dakota State University

web – Lowercase. The internet is the network that makes the web and email possible. The three words are not interchangeable.

ZIP – Use all capital letters when referring to ZIP code because it is an acronym for Zoning Improvement Plan.


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