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Sustainable Society:  A society that balances the environment, other life forms, and human interactions over an indefinite time period.







Publication Style Guidelines*


Capitalization in Titles and Headings
Signs and Symbols

To present information in a consistent manner, every publishing entity must make some arbitrary decisions regarding publication style ―the mechanics of how information is presented. Such decisions include how to use abbreviations, what words to capitalize, and when to spell out numbers, to name a few. The guidelines in this section set standards for such issues. 

These guidelines do not judge other styles as wrong but rather define a style based on widely recognized conventions. Adherence to these guidelines promotes uniformity of document presentation and adds to the professionalism and credibility of your publications. 

Guidance for document style issues that are not addressed in this guide can be found in the style manuals listed in the references. In all cases, decisions regarding document style should be based on the needs of the audience of your publication.



Whenever possible, limit the use of abbreviations in your publications. Abbreviations save little space and may be unfamiliar to readers. Extensive use of abbreviations (or acronyms) makes writing difficult to read. 

In text, use an abbreviation only if you mention it more than once. At the first use in a document, spell out the abbreviation followed by the abbreviation in parentheses. Similar to an acronym, you may need to spell out an abbreviation again later in the text depending on (1) length of the document, (2) how many times you use the abbreviation, and (3) how familiar the reader is with the abbreviation. 

        The ground water should be remediated to concentrations of
        100 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) for BTEX and 500 mg/kg
        for total petroleum hydrocarbons.

Avoid abbreviations in titles or headings.

Abbreviate units of measurement the same in the singular and the plural. 

                1 m     43 m      0.5 mg      7 mg     4 lb       1 lb

Check Latin abbreviations to be sure you've used them correctly. You can generally avoid the use of the Latin abbreviation etc. A good rule of thumb regarding etc.: if there's more to say, say it!

           Latin Abbreviation  Latin Phrase  English Phrase

                      i.e .                    id est            that is

                      et al.                 et alii             and others

                      e.g.                   exempli          such as

                      etc.                   et cetera         and so forth

 In text, write out names of cities, states, and countries except for U.S. when it is used as an adjective for a government agency.

           U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
           U.S. Department of Energy

 In tables and graphics, you can generally use an abbreviation when space is limited even if the abbreviation hasn't been used in text.


 An acronym is formed from the initial letters or parts of words in a name or series of words. Some acronyms are associated almost exclusively with the environmental field (see the list of environmental acronyms). Take care that you do not use acronyms that are unfamiliar to your readers.

You should use an acronym in text only if it is mentioned more than once. Spell out the acronym followed by the acronym in parentheses at the first use in the document. Similar to an abbreviation, you may need to spell out the acronym again later in the document depending on (1) length of the document, (2) how many times the acronym is used, and (3) how familiar the reader is with the acronym.

        The process includes the building's heating, ventilating,
        and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Room 12 is the control
        room for the HVAC system.

Avoid using acronyms in titles or headings.

Add a lowercase -s without an apostrophe to make an acronym plural.

                SWMUs         VOCs         HASPs           CFCs

Form the possessive of an acronym by adding -'s.

                DOE's        USEPA's        DOT's           CMA's


No set of rules for capitalization is universally applicable. Proper capitalization depends on context, field of study, and level of readership. In general, capitalize the first letter of proper nouns, words in titles or headings, and first words in sentences.

Capitalization in Text

In text, capitalize the initial letter of proper nouns. Proper nouns include names of specific persons, places, things, concepts, or qualities.

            Savannah River Site
            Clean Air Act
            Pond 17

Capitalize names of organizations, agencies, institutions, and associations. Also capitalize internal divisions, organizations, and departments.

            American Society of Mechanical Engineers
            Traffic Department
            Colorado Department of Health
            Support Services Division

 Use an initial capital letter for chapters or parts of a publication identified by number.

             Chapter 6    Appendix A    Section 3.4    Figure 3.2

 Capitalize proper names for buildings, areas, facilities, and processes.

            Building 12a Room 4
            Compressor 146e
            Monitoring Well 12c

 Capitalize the words north, south, east, and west when they are in a proper noun that refers to part of the country. Otherwise, make them lowercase.

                East St. Louis     the West    North Denver

The building is east of the cooling tower.

Capitalize months and days of the week but not seasons.

                January     Monday     spring     fall

Don't capitalize titles of persons unless the person is mentioned by name in conjunction with the title.

                General manager     site safety officer     President Clinton

Capitalize individual letters that serve as names or indicate shapes.

                X-ray       U-shaped pipe        I-beam

In proper nouns that are several words long, do not capitalize articles (a, an, the), coordinate conjunctions (such as and, but, and or), or short prepositions (such as of, in, and at), but capitalize prepositions with more than four letters.

        National Institute for Occupational Safety and Emergency Planning and Health
        Community Right-to-Know Act

 Capitalize the first letter of a proper noun combined with a common noun.

              Brinell hardness number     Boyle's law

Capitalization in Titles and Headings

In titles and headings, capitalize the initial letters of the first word, the last word, and all major words. Do not capitalize articles (a, an, the), coordinate conjunctions (such as and, but, and or), or short prepositions (such as of, in, and at) unless they begin a title or a heading. Capitalize prepositions with more than four letters.

            Compliance with CAA Provisions Through SCR
            Appellate Court Rules in EPA's Favor

Consider each word of a hyphenated compound in a title or a heading for capitalization.

             X-Ray Fluorescence     Potential-to-Emit    Limitations Under Review



This section includes guidelines for use of commas in some common but often confusing situations. You can find guidance for other questions about appropriate use of commas in several of the manuals listed in the references. Most dictionaries also have an excellent section on punctuation.

In a series of three or more items, use a comma after each item except the last.

                Methanol, chloroform, and carbon tetrachloride are used to
                 clean the spectrometer.

Use commas before and after the year when dates are written in the month-day-year format. However, do not use commas when dates are in the month-year format.

                On November 17, 1996, the contractor  completed the project.
                We expect the report in December 1997 before the holidays.

Set off the individual elements in names of geographical places with commas.

                Denver, Colorado, is the center of a great deal of
                environmental-related activity.

Use commas to set off groups of three digits in numbers.

                168,800      1,900       3,465,000

When used adjacent to a closing quotation mark, place the comma (or period) before the mark.

                The third field, "05," is the sample
                The report was changed to state, "Drill
                cuttings are collected in a 55-gallon drum."


In general, hyphens are used:

            * In compound words,
            * To join words that form compound modifiers, and
            * To join prefixes to root words when the word would be awkward without the hyphen.

Compound Words

 Many compound words are always spelled with a hyphen.

                self-contained     by-product     maintenance-free

Refer to a dictionary for guidance on questions concerning whether a word should be hyphenated (on-site), open (on site), or closed (onsite).

Compound Modifiers

 A compound modifier is a group of two or more words that is used as a single modifier of a noun. Hyphenate compound modifiers when they precede a noun.

                line-generated combustibles
                EPA-approved containers
                stainless-steel pipes
                gamma-ray spectrometer

Hyphenate compound modifiers with a numerical first part.

            55-gallon drums     24-inch pipe     3-inch-diameter well

If a noun has more than one modifier and if each word modifies the noun clearly without the other modifying words or word, a hyphen is unnecessary.

                waste storage area      preventive maintenance schedule

Do not use a hyphen when one of the words in the compound modifier ends in -ly.

                privately owned company      partially consumed wire



 Prefixes generally do not require a hyphen.

            prefilter     nonhazardous    unknown    deionized    recharacterized

Hyphenate words with prefixes that would be awkward without a hyphen.

                re-form (to form again)
                re-cover (to cover again)
                un-unionized co-worker (not unionized)



 Numbers are a frequent source of inconsistency in technical writing.

Numbers can be written out or can appear as numerical figures.

Use figures for all numbers that express units of measurement, time, or currency. Measurement includes distance, length, area, volume, weight, and velocity.

                2 inches     40 hours     100 nCi/g     10:00 a.m.     3 ounces

Write out numbers that do not express units of measurement, time, or currency if they are below 10. Use figures if the numbers are 10 or greater.

                The agency issued a draft RCRA permit for
                nine of the impoundments.
                To date, the client has included 260
                structures in the program.

Write out numbers that begin a sentence or rewrite the sentence.

                Twenty or 30 gallons are generated each  month.

Express numbers in the same sentence or in a series consistently, but never use figures to start a sentence.

                The document is 1 of 12 such reports.

When two numbers follow one another in a sentence, spell out one of them.

                Enough soil will be collected to fill two
                8-ounce sample jars.

Use figures to number: 

                * Pages,
                * Tables,
                * Graphics,
                * Sections, and
                * Items in lists.

Do not follow words expressing a number with the figure in parentheses except in legal documents.

                Change: Twelve (12) discrete samples will be collected.
                To:    Twelve discrete samples will be collected.

Use a combination of figures and words to express large round numbers (1 million or greater).

                 1.6 million square feet      $2 million

Qualify and spell out approximate numbers.

                around fifty pounds     about five hundred yards south

Use figures for percentages and decimals.

                 Copper may be combined with beryllium to form an alloy
                that contains 1% beryllium.

Place a zero left of the decimal in decimal values less than one.

                0.05 milligrams per cubic meter     0.1 nanocuries per gram


Signs and Symbols

 This section provides guidelines for use of common signs and symbols such as $, &, /, and chemical and element symbols.

The $ sign should always precede dollar amounts.

                The contract is worth approximately

Use an ampersand (&) as appropriate in proper nouns.

                Geraghty & Miller, Inc.     Dames & Moore

Use the slash or solidus (/) to replace per in abbreviated units of measurement.

                 mg/kg        nCi/g         mg/L

If you need to mention a chemical or element frequently in the text of a publication and if the audience has a technical background, you can use the chemical or element symbol. At the first use in text, spell out the chemical or element name followed by the symbol in parentheses. You may need to spell out the chemical or element name again later in the document depending on (1) length of the document, (2) how many times you mention the chemical or element, and (3) how familiar the reader is with the chemical or element symbol.

                 We investigated whether the process could recover nitric
                  acid (HNO3) from a surrogate HNO3 waste stream.

You can also use symbols for:

                * Mathematical equations and
                * Footnotes in a table when the table includes equations or numbers.

You should use arbitrary symbols such as *, +, or to footnote tables that include equations or numbers because the reader may confuse numbers or letters used for footnotes with data in the table.

Use of the number sign (#) is often unnecessary and can usually be avoided.

                Change:    Task #2
                To:        Task 2

                Change: Permit #92012
                To:     Permit 92012



According to the U.S. Trademark Association, Trademarks are words, symbols, or designs that businesses use to identify their products or services and distinguish them from those of competitors. Businesses can lose ownership of a trademark if they allow the trademark to be misused.

At a minimum, always use initial capital letters for trademarks. Depending on the type of publication, trademarks may have to be CAPITALIZED (not just initial capitalization); enclosed in quotes; italicized; or used in conjunction with an , TM, or SM designation. For at least the initial use of a trademark that is not widely recognized, use the generic term after the trademark.

                Mariko solvent is used during the cleaning

 Do not use trademarks as verbs.

                Change: Xerox the report.
                To:   Copy the report on the Xerox copier.
Courtesy of Ryan Editorial Services.
* Copyright 1996-1997 Ryan Editorial Services.


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