Style Sheet


Age (see also: Hyphenation, Numbers)


Always use numerals, even when the age is less than 10 (this is an exception n to the general TRU policy on numbers). Consequently, do not begin a sentence with an age.


The girl, 18, has a son who is 2 months old.


Hyphens link those “X-year-old” constructions that describe or replace a noun (such as boy, girl, book, or brand).


Example: The 15-year-old respondent was eager to get his license.


Example: The focus group included boys, ages 12 to 15. A separate group included 18- and 19-year olds.


In the last example, the “X-year-old” constructions lack a noun. The reader assumes in the noun’s absence, that the writer refers to 18- and 19-year-old people.


Hyphens do not link a single simple statement of age.


The girl is 12 years old.


Dangling Modifiers


These mistakes occur when a modifier does not obviously and directly refer to the subject of the sentence.


Wrong: Taking our seats, the game started. (The verb, “taking” does not refer to the subject, “game”).

Right: Taking our seats, we applauded as the game started.




Abbreviate the month only when part of an exact date. There is no comma between the month and year if it does not include the exact date. Do not use 1st, 2nd, 15th, etc.


September 11 Sept. 11, 2001 September 2001




Spell out if less than 10, unless expressed as a percentage3 or an age. Spell out any number that begins a sentence.


Example: “Teens rated two of the 14 choices “extremely satisfied”

Example: “Sixty-two percent of teens could not understand TRU’s Style Book.”


Percentages are expressed as follows:


In The TRU Study and other reports, use the percent sign (%)

In press releases, write out the word “percent,” in keeping with AP Style




Capitalize the principal words within titles. Capitalize prepositions (by, at, of) or conjunctions (and, or) only if they appear a the beginning or the end of title, or if they are more than four letters long.


Place the following titles within ITALICS:


Books, songs, TV shows, movies, and plays


Example: Mayor Daley asked all Chicago citizens to read “To Kill a Mockingbird,”

Example: His favorite movie I “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,”


Place the following titles within ITALICS:


            Album titles, Magazines (Magazine is always lower case unless part of the proper name.


Example: Rolling Stone magazine reviewed the Limp Biscuit song “Nookie,” from the band’s album Significant Other.




Affect vs. Effect: In general, “affect” is a verb. “Effect” is generally a noun. There are instances in which these roles may be reversed (“she wore a distant affect or or “he will effect change”). HOWEVER, these instances are both rare and easily avoided. Limit yourself to the more typical usage of each word.


Affect=Action (verb)


Example: “The election will affect the country’s foreign policy”


Effect=End result (noun)


Example: “Do you think Eminem will have a permanent effect on popular music”


Its vs. It’s: Although an apostrophe GENERALLY indicates possession (Colin’s beach towel, Michael’s big, gold SUV), n this case IT DOES NOT.


“Its” is the possessive form of the neuter pronoun (a pronoun that refers to an entity without gender).


Example: “US Airways recently lost its listing on the S&P 500,”


“It’s” is a contraction of either “it is” or “it has.”


Example: “It’s about time” (It is)

Example: “It’s been a while…” (It has)


Log in vs. Login: Tell respondents to “log in” or “log on” to a specific Web or e-mail destination. To do this they will enter their “login” or “logon” name or password.


Majority vs. Plurality: A majority represents at least 51% of the whole. If the largest segment of a group is less than half of the whole, it is known as a plurality.


Example: ”The majority—68%— drank orange juice.”

Example: “The plurality—42%— chose cash.


Since vs. As: “Since” and “as”: ”Since” and “as” are not interchangeable. Use the word “since” only when referring to a situation resulting from a specific event. Use the words “as,” “because,” or “due to” when outlining cause and effect


Right: “She hadn’t watched ‘The X-Files’since David Duchovny left the series.”

Wrong: “Since” they are rarely home at that hour, teens don’t watch the program.:


That vs. Which: These words are not interchangeable.


In general, use “that” when introducing an essential clause (a clause that can’t be removed without changing the sentence’s overall meaning).


Example: Respondents reacted positively to advertising THAT featured sports celebrities.


Use “which” when introducing a nonessential clause (usually used in conjunction with commas).


Example: “Respondents reacted positively to the sports oriented advertising, WHICH appealed to their interest in professional football.”


The exception: “which” may be used to introduce an essential clause if “that” appears elsewhere in the sentence.


Example: “Several group members suggested THAT advertisements WHICH feature boy bands are ineffective.”



Toward, not Towards


Wrong: “Several respondents boasted that they were working toward their high school equivalency degrees.”


Right: “Several respondents boasted that they were working toward their college degrees.”Try to…, not Try and…


Wrong: “I’m going to try and bail my cousin out of jail.”

Right: “I’m going to try to break the land speed record.”


Who vs. Whom: Use “who” when referring directly to the subject of a sentence, clause, or phrase. Use “whom” when referring to the object of a verb or preposition.


Helpful hint: No one ever confuses he/him. If “he” is applicable in a sentence, so is “who.” If the sentence calls for “him,” use “whom.”


Example: “The man WHO shot the footage gained brief notoriety.” (HE shot the footage and gained brief notoriety.)

Example: “To WHOM are you writing?” (I am writing to HIM.)






When pluralizing an acronym, do not use an apostrophe. They have nothing to do with making anything plural.


Examples: CDs, SUVs, VCRs (After all, it wouldn’t be “compact disc’s” if you spelled it out.)




Treat the two words surrounding a slash (/) or an ampersand (&) similarly. If one gets capitalization, they both do.


Example: Radio/Television use is up this wave.

Example: Fewer teens are shopping at bath & body stores.


Following changes within the technology industry, TRU no longer capitalizes internet, web, or ‘net (note that the apostrophe remains in the latter example. Also, not that website is now one word.


Race designations: white and black are not capitalized, but Caucasian and African American are.


Capitalize “mom” and “dad” only when doing so reflects the terms being used as a proper noun. Otherwise, it’s a generic title, just like aunt, grandchild or step-son.


Example: “Well, Mom is nice. But Dad’s an ass.”

Example: Although the typical teen reports having a close relationship with mom, the bond with dad can be strained.


T-shirt is only capitalized when it begins a sentence.


For clarity and ease of reading, capitalize season names when referring to the Fall Study and Spring Update.


Do not capitalize music genres unless they begin a sentence.


heavy metal




R&B (shorthand for rhythm and blues)




Use a single space after each of these devices.


Colons are frequently used at the end of a sentence to introduce a list, a string of thoughts, or other closely related points. Colons are also used to attribute speech in dialog. Capitalize the first word after a colon if it starts a sentence, or if it is a proper noun. Colons go outside quotation marks unless they are part of the quote itself.


Semicolons convey a greater separation of thought than commas, but less separation than a period implies. The Associated Press Stylebook (available in Rob’s office) goes into greater depth.




In a list of more than two items, include a comma before the word “and.”


Example: Teens today are into food, music, shopping, and hanging out.


Do not use a comma to divide a sentence unless that clause has its own subject.


Right: “Most teens said newspapers are trustworthy, but they are not entertaining to read.”

Wrong: “Most teens said newspapers are trustworthy, but not entertaining.”




Do not use commas to separate month from year unless referring to an exact date.


Example: “As cited in the May 2000 report…”

Example: “The session is scheduled for May 18, 2000…”




Use italics, not quotes, to emphasize a particular word or phrase. Quotation marks should be reserved for actual verbatims with explicit or implied attribution.


The real news this wave is that the Nokia brand continued its decline; teens reported Nokia seems to have stopped innovating.”




Use ellipses to show that a part of the text has been edited or otherwise abbreviated. Separate the ellipses from the surrounding words b leaving one space on either side.

“More than half of teens surveyed … reported witnessing drug use at school.”




Use an em dash to isolate part of a sentence from the larger thought being addressed.


Example: “Research found that older males—and to a lesser extent younger ones—displayed open contempt for the Backstreet Boys.”

Example: “girls did not seem to share this animosity—to few people’s surprise.”


Do not use a single hypen in place of an em dash.


Do not use spacing between the em dash and the words that surround it. (Cont’d…)




Many TRU computers will automatically create an em dash if you follow these steps:


Key two hyphens (–) into the computer leaving no spaces between surrounding words. Microsoft Word generally changes those two hyphens into an em dash as you begin keying in the next word in your sentence.


If you need to insert an em dash manually, follow these steps:


Laptop users: Create a macro. Insert->Symbol->Special Characters->Shortcut Key. Click on Em Dash, then simultaneously the “Alt” and “M” keys. Click on “assign.” You may now insert an em dash by pressing “Alt+M.


Desktop users: “Ctrl” + “Alt” + the dash key on the number pad.”






African American ONLY when it is a compound modifier.


Example: African-American teens are typically trendsetters.


…otherwise it is not hyphenated.


Example: African Americans make up this country’s largest minority.


Fractions. See “NUMBERS” section for further information




Hyphenate “X-year-old” when it modifies a noun, present or implied:


Example: A 5-year-old girl (modifies girl)

Example: A 5-year-old (reader assumes the subject is a child)


Any compound modifiers not easily understood.


Example: High school students (Understood—we know it doesn’t mean school students who are high)

Example: Deep-fried dough (Without the hyphen, someone could think the entire fried dough was deep)




Adverbs (words ending in “-ly”)


Example: These quickly adopting trend setters are considered Influencers.






Exception: a trend-setting teen (adj.)





Parentheses: Use parentheses ( ) to express a thought incidental to a sentence. Like the em dash, parentheses convey a greater separation of thought than do commas. Punctuation generally goes on the outside of parentheses unless the parenthetical statement can stand on its own. (Like this.)


Ford enjoyed a healthy surge in teen approval, thanks in large part to the successful new Focus model (and its youth-appropriate advertising).


Brackets: Use brackets [ ] sparingly. They are appropriate when inserting a necessary but absent word into a direct quote. Also use them in those rare instances when a parenthetical remark takes place inside another set of parentheses.


Example: “Angelina Jolie is awesome! [She’s] so damn hot!”

Example: (Action on this project has halted; the account’s lead advertising agency [Harmon & Assoc.] recently filed for bankruptcy)




Use quotation marks (“”) to denote a direct quote, to introduce an unfamiliar term, or to distance the writer from an extremely negative viewpoint.


Example: Female respondents called the class rings “too big—clunky and masculine.”

Example: TRU prefers to employ “mini-groups,” which seat six rather than the more conventional eight or ten.


Periods and commas always go inside quotation marks. Question marks and exclamation points go inside quotation marks only if the quote indicates them.


Example: “That was the grossest thing I’ve ever seen!”

Example: Who said “a stitch in time saves nine”?


IMPORTANT STYLE TIP: Reserve quotation marks for colorful quotes that add depth or character to the message. Do not use quotation marks to highlight a few ordinary words that don’t definitively prove a point.


RIGHT: One respondent said she “would sooner eat roadkill than Arby’s.”

            WRONG: The guys in this group said they usually only wear cologne on “special occasions.”


When a word or phrase that already appears within a quote requires its own set of quotation marks, use the single quotation mark (‘).


Example: My mom said I looked ‘like a hussy.’ I don’t know what that means, but I don’t think it’s good.”






Single-space after periods, colons, semicolons, question marks and exclamation points.

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