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Calvin College Guide to Style

A guide to writing and editing for Calvin publications
updated December 2009


Introduction by Professor James Vanden Bosch

A. Acronyms
Usage of acronyms, the abbreviated forms of titles and other terms

B. Athletic Terms
Usage of sports-related terminology

C. Calvin
Style issues pertinent to Calvin College: usage of administrative and
academic titles, department and discipline names, facility names, etc.

D. Computer Terms
Usage of computer and Internet terminology

E. Event publications
Covers style usage for formal publications

F. Numbers
Usage of numerical figures: biblical citations, dates, grade levels, historical periods, measurements, money, percentages, telephone numbers and time

G. Places
Abbreviations of state names as well as proper use of compass directions

H. Punctuation
Usage of the ampersand, apostrophe, colon, comma, dash (en and em), ellipsis, hyphen, italics, parentheses, quotation marks and semicolon

I. Religious Terms
Usage of Christian and other religious terminology

J. Time
Accurate representation of eras, centuries, dates, decades, months,
times of day and seasons

K. Titles, of Compositions
Usage of newspaper, magazine, musical and other composition titles

L. Titles, of Persons
Usage of academic, courtesy and other titles

M. Unbiased Language
Usage of gender-neutral and racially sensitive terminology


”He was by nature attracted to people of high station as a fly is drawn to the light, assimilating their ways and views of life and establishing friendly relations with them. … He succumbed to sensuality, to vanity, and latterly among the highest classes to liberalism, but always within limits which his instinct unfailingly indicated to him as correct.“

This famous description of Ivan Ilyich, in Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886), describes very economically the central flaw of Ivan Ilyich’s character, of his soul. He had the chameleon’s gift of adaptive coloration, always keen to blend in with the social and cultural classes he aspired to belong to. But he failed to develop a self in the process, settling instead for a masterful impersonation of a self, an impersonation that he hoped would bring him the status he thought he needed.

Few readers admire a character who systematically sidestepped the obligation to know himself. But in matters of usage, I tell my student writers that they need to work hard to graduate from what I have called the Ivan Ilyich School of Usage, not because such study is sufficient, but because it is a useful place to begin.

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