Open Learning Style Guide

This document is especially relevant to instructional development but has been approved for use throughout TRU Open Learning. The purpose of these guidelines is to enhance quality and consistency in Open Learning documents and courses.

The Editorial Style Guide is normally followed in all documents—print, electronic, and broadcast. It is a set of default conventions; i.e., it is followed in all writing and editing functions except where the project leader has specified variations.


The editorial style generally follows The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition. Refer to Chicago for detailed information, but follow the Editorial Style Guide in instances in which the styles differ.

Contact us for help with this style, or refer to TRU Library’s “Chicago Manual of Style” resource web page at

For spelling, generally follow the first entry in The Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Also, please refer to the spelling checklist included with this style guide.


Always spell-out the term in full at the first use, with the abbreviated form following in parentheses.

In Text

Avoid abbreviating in general text unless you have first provided the full term, normally with the shortened form in parentheses. (The names of agencies, unions, associations, etc., are often abbreviated after one spelled-out use.)

  • Donald Smith drove the symbolic “last spike” of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) at Craigellachie, BC. The CPR bound Canada from Nova Scotia to British Columbia.

Periods with

Generally follow the punctuation used with abbreviations in Canadian Oxford.


To form the plural of an acronym, just add an s.

  • NGOs and URLs, not NGO’s and URL’s

Social Titles

Abbreviate social and academic titles, whether with full name or with surname only.

  • Mr., Mlle., Mme.
  • Note: Also write “Ms.” like an abbreviation, even though it is not a shortened form.

Academic Degrees

Do not use periods with abbreviations for academic degrees.

  • BA
  • MA
  • BSc
  • PhD


Use page or pages, rather than p. or pp., in text. (The abbreviations are acceptable in parenthetical references.)

Units of Measure

Never use periods with metric symbols or imperial abbreviations.

  • cm
  • m
  • km
  • L
  • lb
  • in
  • qt
  • yd


Abbreviate terms related to time as follows:

  • a.m.
  • p.m.
  • BC
  • AD
  • BCE
  • CE

Provinces, Territories, US States

For the abbreviations of provinces and territories of Canada and US states do not use periods. In any single course or document, follow one style consistently.

  • Alberta AB
  • British Columbia BC
  • Manitoba MB
  • New Brunswick NB
  • Newfoundland NF Nfld.
  • Northwest Territories NWT
  • Nova Scotia NS
  • Nunavut NT
  • Ontario ON
  • Quebec PQ
  • Prince Edward Island PE
  • Saskatchewan SK
  • Yukon Territory YT


Headings and Titles

In headings and titles of works such as books, journals, articles, and Open Learning courses, capitalize:

  • The first and last words
  • Nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and subordinating conjunctions
  • The second word in a hyphenated compound if it has equal force with the first word or is a proper noun or proper adjective
    1. Seventeenth-Century Literature
    2. Make-up Artists

In headings and titles, do not capitalize:

  • Coordinating conjunctions, such as and, but, and or, and prepositions, such as except, toward, and at (unless the conjunction or preposition is the first or last word)
  • The to in infinitives

Course Components

Capitalize in-text references to OL course components.

  • Unit 1
  • Assignment 1
  • Practice Exercise 1.1
  • Table 1.1
  • Course Guide
  • Figure 1.1
  • Assignments
  • Answer Key
  • Marked Assignment Form (MA Form)


Capitalize the names of companies, ministries, commissions, etc.

  • the Ministry of Economic Development
  • the Labour Relations Board
  • the Chamber of Commerce

Do not capitalize titles following a personal name or used alone in place of it.

  • the prime minister of Canada
  • the king of England
  • the chair of the TRU Department of History


Citing Sources

Use that same style throughout the course materials. TRU-OL courses normally follow either APA or MLA style; however, editors should check with the Course Lead to confirm if a discipline-specific academic style was used in place of APA or MLA.

  • The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA), 6th edition. APA style is outlined in TRU Library’s “APA Citation Style” web page at
  • Modern Languages Association (MLA) style, as outlined in TRU Library’s “MLA Citation Style” web page at


Ensure that quotations correspond exactly to their originals in wording, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation.

Quotation Marks

Within the body of the material, enclose “run-in quotations” within double quotation marks. Use single quotation marks only to indicate a quotation that falls within a quotation.

Block Quotations

Generally use block quotation format for quoted matter of about eight lines or more. Indent the block quotation, and do not place it within quotation marks.


Treat poetry of at least two lines as a block quotation. If lines of poetry are too long for the column width, indent run-over lines a further two spaces.

Citing Sources

Cite sources in the following ways unless a particular course development team is consistently using a specific style that the students are required to use in their papers.

Most courses follow either the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA) or Modern Languages Association (MLA) style.


Avoid using footnotes for citations in courses.

Course Textbooks

Provide full publication information for assigned textbooks for a course (in the Course Guide or equivalent document). Subsequent references to the textbook may be abbreviated. Use one of the following shortened forms of citation consistently throughout any one course.

  • (Torres & Ehrlich, 2002, p. 121)
  • (Modern Dental Assisting, 1998, p. 121)

In Running Text

If a course does not have a bibliography: Where few citations are required, full publication information may be placed in parentheses.

  • The em space, as F. Howard Collins describes it, is “the square of the body of any size of type” (Authors and Printers Dictionary, 11th ed., London: Oxford University Press, 1979, p. 128). [Note: update this to APA. CW]
  • In his Authors and Printers Dictionary, F. Howard Collins gives useful definitions of the em space (11th ed., London: Oxford University Press, 1979, p. 128) and other typographical terms.[Note: update this to APA. CW]

If the course has a bibliography: Under the following conditions, list the cited works in full in a bibliography or reference list at the end of the unit.

  • When the name of the author cited is used in the sentence:
In his summary of research findings, Blake (1980) concluded that much research produces only “folk knowledge”; that is, the results are no more than common sense.
  • When the author’s name is not used in the sentence
One study (Blake 1980) found that much of what passes for research actually produces only “folk knowledge.”
  • When a specific page or other division of the cited work follows the date:
One study (Blake 1980, p. 89) found that much of what passes for research actually produces only “folk knowledge.”[Note: update this to APA. CW]

Following Block Quotations

Without bibliography: The citation should include author, title, place of publication, publisher, date, and page number.

  • Nothing happened. Nothing! Nothing! as she leant her head against Mrs. Ramsay’s knee. And yet, she knew knowledge and wisdom were stored up in Mrs. Ramsay’s heart. How then, she had asked herself, did one know one thing or another thing about people, sealed as they were? (Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse, New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1955, p. 79)[Note: update this to APA. CW]

With bibliography: If there is a bibliography or reference list at the end of the unit, the following form of citation is adequate:

  • Nothing happened. Nothing! Nothing! as she leant her head against Mrs. Ramsay’s knee. And yet, she knew knowledge and wisdom were stored up in Mrs. Ramsay’s heart. How then, she had asked herself, did one know one thing or another thing about people, sealed as they were? (Woolf, 1955, p. 79)

Citing Electronic Sources

Works on the World Wide Web are cited in much the same way as printed works. They are included as parenthetical references, and section numbers (such as paragraph numbers) are included if available. For more information, visit the relevant Web pages (provided below—along with examples of MLA and APA style):

Bibliographies and References Lists

If it is necessary to use a bibliography or reference list, citations should follow the academic style chosen for the course. Use only one style of citation throughout the course. Refer to the style guides when creating the citation.


Displayed Lists

The preferred form for a list includes an introductory colon, a capital letter at the beginning of each listed item, and no punctuation at the end unless the items in the list are complete sentences or they complete the sentence.

For example:

Write a brief explanation for each of the terms or names below:

  • Natural history
  • Plato
  • Natural selection
  • Homeostasis

By the time you finish your work on this unit, you will be able to:

  1. Take a two-minute timing.
  2. Spread-centre a word or words.
  3. Apply the proofreading mark for “delete.”




Italicize the titles of books, journals, plays, separately published poems, long musical compositions, paintings, and films.

Course Titles

Italicize complete course titles referred to in text.

  • The course prerequisite is GEOG 2301, Introduction to Human Geography I.

Note: Open Learning course codes, such as GEOG 2301, do not usually appear prominently (if at all) in documents that will be used by other institutions.

Key Terms

On first use, italicize words that are referred to as words unless the team agrees on an alternative approach.

  • The word creed comes from Latin.

Foreign Terms

Italicize foreign-language words that you think would be unfamiliar to your intended audience. Define the term and state the language of origin. For example:

  • Several English words related to belief are derived from credo, which is Latin for “I believe.”


Italicize the sic in [sic]. However, note that we do not italicize certain Latin abbreviations.

  • ibid.
  • et al.
  • etc.

Genus, Species Names

Italicize the scientific (Latin) name of a plant or animal. Note that the genus name is capitalized, whereas the species name is lowercased.

  • The genus Smilodan
  • The species hartiee
  • Homo sapiens


Italicize letters (including Greek letters) used as mathematical variables. Use boldface for vectors. Do not italicize abbreviations such as log, tan, cos, cot, sec, csc, and sin.

  • y = –2a cos
  • p(λ) = det(λI – A)

Note: It is the responsibility of subject matter experts to follow the standard usage in their field. In science and math, for example, subject matter experts are expected to adhere to standard usage for variables and vectors, using a notation system accepted by the development team.




The general rule for numbers in text that is not scientific or statistical is to spell out numbers up to and including ten and use figures for those over ten. The major exceptions are year numbers and numbers referring to parts of a book.

  • 56 BC, AD 1988
  • Figure 34 on page 12

However, it may be less awkward to use figures if there are many numbers together:

  • The winning numbers in the lottery were 92, 79, 61, 53, 37, 20, and 12.

Note: Your usage may be different if your course is consistently following a style such as Canadian Press style (for journalism) or APA style (for social sciences and health).

Triad Separator

Except for monetary numbers, use a comma as the triad separator in numbers of at least five digits. The triads—groups of three figures—are counted on each side of the decimal.

  • 10,000 km, but 3000 km
  • 39,601.34118625

Note: The exception is that a space is used in four-digit numbers when they appear in a column with numbers of at least five digits.


Use a comma as the triad separator in monetary numbers of at least four digits.

  • £3,000 or $10,000

Note: In French, the usage is different. For example, the dollar sign appears last, and a comma is used to separate dollars and cents.


Place a zero to the left of a decimal if there is no other digit there.

  • 700 g = 0.7 kg

No Apostrophe

Do not use apostrophes when referring to years and other numerals in the plural.

  • ten 5s
  • the 1980s



To form the possessive of singular nouns, normally include an s after the apostrophe, even with a name ending in a sibilant. Exceptions include Jesus’, Moses’, and other instances where tradition and euphony favour the omission of the final s.

  • Burns’s poems, but Ulysses’ wife




When a period appears at the end of a quotation, place it before the closing quotation marks (except after a single word enclosed by quotation marks).

  • The instructor said, “Please read the next section.”
  • A flaw in this multiple-choice quiz is that the correct answer is usually “c”.


Place a comma before the concluding conjunction in a series of items.

  • The curtains are available in red, green, and yellow.

Normally set off the abbreviations etc., i.e., and e.g. by commas. However, begin with a semicolon if the i.e. or e.g. introduces a main clause. (Never begin a sentence with E.g. or I.e.)

  • She used many figures of speech, e.g., similes and metaphors.
  • She used many figures of speech; e.g., she included similes in almost every stanza.

When a comma appears at the end of a quotation, place it before the closing quotation marks.

Semicolon and Colon

When a semicolon or colon appears at the end of a quotation or parenthetical comment, place the semicolon after the closing quotation marks, parenthesis, or bracket.

  • He said, “Read the next two major tragedies for tomorrow”; i.e., we had to read Hamlet and Othello that night.
  • Study Hamlet and Othello (the next two major tragedies); for example, be prepared to analyze the protagonists’ tragic flaws.

Normally use an initial lowercase letter for the element introduced by a colon. Use a capital only if the element is a formal statement, a quotation, more than one sentence, or an item in a displayed list.

Exclamation Point, Question Mark

Place the closing quotation marks, parenthesis, or bracket before an exclamation point or question mark unless it is part of the quoted material.

  • Did she say, “I want to come too”?
  • “Can I come too?” she asked.


Ellipsis points of three dots indicate an omission of a word or words within a sentence. (Use non-breaking spaces between the dots so that the ellipsis will not be broken at the end of a line.) Also leave a space before and after the ellipsis.

  • “Small communities such as Granville . . . and Cedar Cottage grew into the city of Vancouver,” she wrote.

Ellipsis points of four dots (a period, followed by three spaced dots) indicate the omission of at least one of the following:

  • The remainder of the quoted sentence [indented line]
               “There comes a tide. . . .”
  • The beginning of the next sentence
  • One or more sentences
  • One or more paragraphs

If the sentence followed by an ellipsis ends in an exclamation point or question mark, that punctuation is followed by the ellipsis points.

  • “What’s become of man’s great extent and proportion, when himself shrinks . . . to a handful of dust? . . . What’s become of his soaring thoughts, when himself brings himself . . . to the grave?”

Quotation Marks

Always use double quotation marks except for quotations within quotations (single marks enclosed by double marks).

  • The instructor said, “Please read the section titled ‘Punctuation.’ ”

In in-text references, use quotation marks for TRU-OL unit titles, section headings in OL units, journal articles, short stories, short poems, and unpublished theses.




Insert a space between the initials of a proper name.

  • H. R. MacMillan Planetarium

Degree Signs

In references to temperature, do not use a space between the degree sign and C or F.

  • 100°C
  • 212°F

Metric Symbols

Insert a non-breaking space between numerals and metric symbols.

  • 2.5 cm
  • 54 g
  • 50 km/h




Use metric measures rather than imperial measures unless requested by the SME.



[This is no longer best practice. Now we link from anchor text. Be sure to provide enough information in the sentence to search for the resource if the link goes down.]

Underline URLs (uniform resource locators, i.e., Web addresses).

Avoid breaking a URL at the end of a line. However, if you must break a URL, do not use a hyphen; instead, break the URL after a slash.

  • For further information on citing electronic sources in Chicago, MLA, and APA styles, consult TRU Library’s “Citation Style Guides” web page at


Style Checklist

Please ensure that you are following the Editorial Style Guide. If you need to make changes in response to this style checklist, you will generally be able to use Word’s “Replace” function.

  • Spelling checked—without changes to spelling within quotations.
  • Double spaces replaced with single spaces.
  • In print documents (but not Web documents), straight quotation marks changed to smart quotation marks (“ ”); straight apostrophes changed to smart apostrophes (’). Note: Inch and foot symbols remain straight.
  • Periods and commas placed inside (before) end quotation marks.
  • Comma placed before the conjunction (e.g., and, or, but) in any series of at least three items (e.g., apples, oranges, and pears).
  • Any variation of the em dash (space hyphen space, space hyphen hyphen space, and hyphen hyphen) changed to an em dash—the long dash—except where an em dash has to be simulated on Web pages.
  • Any hyphen intended to mean “to” changed to an en dash, which is longer than a hyphen but shorter than an em dash (e.g., pp. 54–65, not pp. 54-65 or pp. 54—65).
  • No spaces around en dashes and em dashes.
  • Period or other closing punctuation at the end of every complete sentence, including sentences in graphics and tables.
  • Bullets • (or an alternative that the team is using consistently throughout a course) before items in a list except when numbers are needed to show sequence or priority. (Note: Capitalize the first word after the bullet or number.)
  • Numbers and metric symbols separated by a non-breaking space (e.g., 2.5 cm, 50 km/h).
  • Triad separators consisting of non-breaking spaces in non-monetary numbers of at least five digits (e.g., 10 000 km) unless the project team has agreed to use the comma. [Note: This should be reviewed and updated. Commas are more frequently used than non-breaking spaces. CW]
  • Triad separators consisting of commas in monetary numbers of at least four digits (e.g., $10,000).
  • In text, initial capitals used only for proper nouns, names of parts of courses (e.g., Assignment File, Unit 4), and the first word in a sentence or listed item.
  • In graphics, initial capital for the first word of each label.
  • Course codes capitalized and course titles italicized when used within text (e.g., GEOG 2301, Introduction to Human Geography).
  • SOLID CAPITALS changed to upper and lower case except when required (e.g., NASA, IBM).
  • In print documents, italics preferred to bolding for emphasis—and used sparingly. In Web documents, bolding generally preferred to italics.


Spelling Checklist

This list conforms to The Canadian Oxford Dictionary, which we follow unless the project team decides on alternatives, e.g., to be consistent with the main textbook for a course. Note that spelling of Internet-related words is evolving rapidly, and variant spellings such as email, online, and Website have been selected by some project teams.

disk (computer)
enrol, enrolment
focuses (n. or v.)

home page
licence (n.)
license (v.)
meter (instrument)
metre (measurement)
naive, naïveté
Net (Internet)
on-line* (adj. or adv.)

per cent
plow (n. or v.)
practice (n.)
practise (v.)
prophecy (n.)
prophesy (v.)
storey (building)
Web (Internet)
Web browser
Web page
Web site*
World Wide Web