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K12 Style Guide

This guide is a broad outline of stylistic rules basic to K12. For spelling, follow Merriam-Webster’s first spelling if there is a choice. Where no rule is present on this list, address questions to the editorial compliance specialist / proofreader at tallenkolessar@K12.com.

Academic degrees

Lowercase associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, doctorate; capitalize Bachelor of Science degree, Master of Education, Doctor of Business Administration. Do not include periods: BA, MA, JD, PhD, EdM, MEd, EdD, DBA.

Acronyms

At the first reference, spell out (and put the acronym in parentheses). Use the acronym in subsequent references. [Example: California Virtual Academies (CAVA) has more than 1,000 students.]

Basics (preferred treatment)

  • @K12.com, capitalize the K in email addresses
  • advisor, with an “o”—not adviser with an “e”
  • à la carte, use the accent
  • AP® and Advanced Placement® must include the registered trademark in every instance.
  • associate’s degree; we use an apostrophe S
  • bachelor’s degree, but Bachelor of Science
  • backward, not backwards with an “s” on the end
  • bootcamp, always one word
  • brick-and-mortar, with hyphens
  • Black is capitalized when referring to racial or ethnic identity such as Black Americans, Black students, Black people, Black-owned businesses, Black community
  • career and college prep, in this order
  • career coach, lowercase (not Success Coach)
  • D.C. takes periods
  • do’s and don’ts; follow this apostrophe style
  • double-click (n. and v.)
  • drop-down list
  • dual credit—don’t use a hyphen: dual credit opportunities, dual credit online courses, etc.
  • e-books, we follow Chicago treatment (but E-books in title case)
  • esports (but Esports to begin a sentence)
  • earth, as in: Observations of the earth around you. We write earth (lowercase) when referring to soil, the ground, or land as opposed to sea. We capitalize Earth when referring to the planet (and even more specifically, our planet; there are many earths out there). In short, it should be capitalized if it’s a proper noun.
  • EdTech, use a capital E, capital T, and spell as one word
  • ellipses, do not use unless content is actually missing. Also, use spaces before/ after/ but not between the dots.
  • email, no hyphen
  • em dash — to denote a pause in thought; do not use an ellipsis unless content is missing
  • en dash – to denote ranges in grades or times or dates; do not use a hyphen
  • enrollment consultant (not capped, not specialist)
  • first come, first served—but if it is modifying a noun then use hyphens: first-come, first-served basis
  • flyer, not flier
  • GenEd, use a capital G, capital E, and spell as one word
  • government is lowercase, as in the U.S. government
  • hangout (noun), hang out (phrasal verb)
  • healthcare, we always spell as one word
  • high-quality, always takes a hyphen when used as an adjective
  • home page
  • homeschool; homeschooled; homeschooling; homeschoolers
  • homescreen (one word)
  • internet, lowercase
  • jump-start, always takes a hyphen (verb/noun)
  • kindergarten, lowercase
  • “K–12” uses the en dash
  • login name (adjective/noun)
  • log in to (verb)
  • midyear, one word
  • master’s degree, but Master of Education
  • one-to-one, never one-on-one
  • onsite and offsite (no hyphens)
  • Parent Portal account
  • postsecondary (no hyphen)
  • pre-K (lowercase “p”; and cap “K”), but preK when part of a grade range (e.g., preK–8)
  • preschool (no hyphen)
  • read alouds, two words with no hyphen
  • registrar and other job titles are lowercase unless used before a person’s name
  • re-registration, we use the hyphen
  • résumé, using the noun accents
  • social emotional learning, no hyphen and no ampersand
  • state names are fully spelled out in content
  • state names in notes, references cited, tables, addresses, or where space is very limited, use two-letter postal code abbreviations (e.g., AL, ID, TX)
  • Stride Tutoring
  • Stride tutor
  • student at a K12-powered school; never a K12 student
  • student advisors, lowercase
  • Student Advisory Council, capped
  • they, them, their—write as gender neutral whenever possible
  • toward, not towards with an “s” on the end
  • upper-level students, not upperclassman
  • U.S. takes periods; USA does not take periods
  • username (one word)
  • web, web-based; web is lowercase
  • web page
  • website
  • world language, never foreign language
  • year-long course
  • ZIP code

Bulleted and Numbered Lists

Only use end punctuation in a bulleted or numbered list when the bullets contain complete sentences. Do not use end punctuation if the bullets are not complete sentences. Try to avoid mixing fragments and full sentences in the same bullet list if possible but use your best judgment on a case-by-case basis.

Capitalization

  • Do not capitalize history, math, science, world languages, art, and music—unless courses are preceded by K12, e.g., K12 Music and K12 Math. (Languages themselves, of course, are always capped: English, Spanish, Chinese, et cetera!)
  • Capitalize the words city, state, or federal only when included in the proper name or in an imaginative title, e.g., Kansas City, the Windy City, city of Dallas, a city employee; Washington State, the Empire State, state of Iowa, state funds; Federal Trade Commission, a federal agency, federal court judge.
  • Capitalize URLs and hashtags keeping accessibility in mind: MUprep, #GEOfocus, etc.
  • Capitalize a numbered chapter or exercise only when referring to the specific number. [Example: Chapter 5.]
  • *Do not capitalize job titles in text unless appearing immediately before the name. Bridget Jones, executive director but Executive Director Bridget Jones. (*An exception is for the executive team’s bio web page.)
  • Do not capitalize compass directions; however, do capitalize geographical regions. [Example: Turn east on Main Street; I lived in the South for twenty years.]
  • Do not capitalize the seasons; they are lowercase: spring, summer, fall, winter
  • Capitalize “virtual academy” or “charter school” only when used as part of an academy or school name. [Example: Alabama Virtual Academy is an online virtual academy offering the complete K12 curriculum, teacher support, and much more.]

Capitalization in Headers (Title Case)

  • Capitalize verbs, regardless of length. *Remember: Is and Are are both verbs!*
  • Capitalize the first and the last word. Capitalize nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, subordinate conjunctions, and verbs (including phrasal verbs, such as Move On, Play With, Sign Up, On Track).
  • Lowercase: (articles) a, an, the; (coordinating conjunctions) for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so; (prepositions) as, at, by, to, in, of, on.
  • Capitalize prepositions, conjunctions, or articles if they consist of 4 or more letters or if they are the first or last word of the heading.
  • Cap the first word after a colon—but not after a semicolon
  • Cap the word following a hyphen. [Example: Cost-Effective]
  • Generally, these are the 25 words to not capitalize in Title Case: a, an, and, as, at, but, by, for, if, in, mid, nor, of, off, on, or, out, per, so, the, to, up, via, vs., yet

Capitalization in Sub-Headers (a Mix)

  • Sub-headers with punctuation at the end (generally will be a question mark or exclamation point) use sentence case
  • Sub-headers as statements (using no punctuation at the end) will use Title Case

Company / School Names

Stride, Inc. (with a comma).

Full names of schools never take “the” before them; this also applies to shortened or abbreviated names. [Examples: Ohio Virtual Academy; OHVA]

Tuition-free public school, private school, and collateral for grades K–12 should all refer to “ K12” or “K12-powered”.

Disclaimers / Testimonials

Attribution style sample for testimonials. “The flexibility of a virtual education, combined with the program’s faith-based curriculum and academic rigor, makes MU Prep the perfect fit for our family.” –Rebecca, parent1

When using student/family names or testimonials, only use first name, no last name or initial.

Disclaimer style example for testimonials. 1Rebecca is the parent of a 2023 student based in IN who attends a K12-powered private school, and their statement reflects their experience at their child’s school.

Disclaimer language, per Legal / FTC guidance, communicating that the images are not of the actual people giving their review. “The individual portrayed in the testimonial image is a representation and not the actual person giving the statement.”

Numbers

  • One through nine, 10 and up
  • Spell out numbers at the beginning of a sentence
  • Spell out whole numbers up to (and including) one hundred when followed by hundredthousandhundred thousandmillionbillion, and so on (e.g., eight hundredthree hundred thousandtwenty-seven trillion)
  • Treatment for lists of things: If a sentence includes multiple numbers that apply to the same thing or category, and if one of the numbers requires a numeral (10 or greater), use numerals for all the quantities of that category.
    • Elizabeth’s family has a lot of pets, including 2 cats, 11 dwarf goats, 3 bunnies, and a dog.
  • Treatment for numbers used in the approximate sense
    • The area comprises roughly two hundred viable sites, not 200
    • About 15 thousand soldiers were killed, not 15,000 or fifteen thousand
  • Age
    • 24 years old, 11 months old, a 34-year-old woman, in her thirties
  • Commas
    • Use for numbers greater than 999: 1,000; 50,000; etc.
  • Dates
    • first, second… ninth century, but 10th century, 19th century, 21st century; 1960s (not 60s); the sixties; October 6, 1966; April 1993 (no comma); CE 1200; 1000 BE; [April 18 is correct, not April 18th.]
      Thursday, August 16 at 9 PM (ET) —no comma after the date, no :00 after the time
  • Grades in school
    • Arabic numerals for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
    • Do not use hyphens in most cases with grades / graders. [Do hyphenate if needed to avoid confusion. Example: She is the tenth 3rd-grader to join.]
    • Note that schools may have different names for their pre-kindergarten offerings, including TK, Young 5s, pre-K, and so on. Please confirm which is the preferred term with the K12 product marketing team.
  • Inclusive numbers
    • 2023–2024 is correct. Do not elide (ex. 2023–24) spans for school years
    • 893–897 is correct. Do not elide (ex. 893–97) numbers in a range
  • Money
    • Thousand, million, billion = $2K, $3M, $4B
  • Percentages
    • Use Arabic numerals and the percentage symbol in content and short form: 10%, 37%, 50%, 92%
    • Phone numbers
      • Use periods, not hyphens, for all telephone numbers: 800.555.1234
    • Telephone numbers are bolded for web treatment

Punctuation

Apostrophe

  • Use the apostrophe with single-letter plurals. Examples: Their grades include A’s, B’s, and C’s. The three R’s are reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic.

Asterisk

  • Place an asterisk after all punctuation marks (commas, colons, periods) except for the dash

Colons

  • Colons should be placed OUTSIDE quotation marks and parentheses
  • In headings and running text, put one space after a colon
  • If a complete sentence follows a colon, capitalize the first word of the sentence

Commas

  • Always use serial commas when listing items in a series, [I bought red, orange, and green bell peppers.]
  • Use a comma to separate two adjectives before a noun when the comma could be replaced by the word “and.” [The wide, rushing river quickly demolished the red boat.]
  • Use for numbers greater than 999: 1,000; 50,000; etc.
  • Use commas when separating professional licensing abbreviations with a name: Tina Allen, LSW, CSWA (not Tina Allen LSW CSWA)
  • Do not use a serial comma with an ampersand
    [Winken, Blinken & Nod]

Ellipses

  • Put one space before and after an ellipsis
  • Use an ellipsis only when content is actually missing

Em dashes (keyboard shortcut ALT+0151)

  • An em dash should be used instead of an ellipsis to indicate a break in thought. No spaces before or after the dash. [Example: All four of them—Jackson, Washington, Cooper, and Clutz—did well on the test.]

En dashes (keyboard shortcut ALT+0150)

  • Use en dashes for ranges of numbers, including page numbers, lesson numbers, and dates [Example: 1–9; grades K–12]
  • Use an en dash for school years, e.g., 2023–2024

Hyphenated words

  • K12 style dictates that words ending in ly do not take hyphens, e.g., highly rated content
  • Do not hyphenate academic or administrative titles such as scholar in residence or writer in residence

Lists

  • Per AP Stylebook, when writing lists “use periods, not semicolons, at the end of each section, whether it is a full sentence or a phrase.”

Quotation marks

  • “Punctuation almost always goes inside quotation marks,” she explained.

Solidus (forward slash)

  • Binary distinctions, dichotomies, or equal relationships all use an en dash, not a solidus or hyphen
    • parent–teacher; us–them; work–life balance; mind–body, not mind-body or mind/body
    • Previously published phrases are excepted: ex. Foucault’s power/knowledge

Never use “s/he,” “him/her,” or “his/hers.” Rewrite as gender neutral and plural: “they,” “them,” and “their.”

Spacing

  • Always use single spacing
  • One space after period, colon, semicolon, question mark

Time

While grades use an en dash, hours use the word “to”

  • In grades 9–12, Learning Coaches spend approximately 1 to 3 hours per day working with their student.

AM and PM are capped with no periods and a space between the numbers and the letters. “:00” is not used unless a one-off decision is made for design purposes.

  • 2 AM or 2 PM

Use an en dash for meeting or event times, or use the word “to”

  • 10 AM–2:30 PM; 10 AM to Noon

Do not use EST and EDT to avoid time-change confusion. Instead, use (ET), (CT), (MT), or (PT) to denote Eastern, Central, Mountain, and Pacific.

Preferred K12 Acronyms / Abbreviations / Phrases

  • Affect; effect.
    • As a verb, affect means to influence. [Example: The new rules will affect almost everyone.]
    • As a verb, effect means to produce a result; to cause something to occur. [Example: Smith said the cutbacks were designed to effect basic economies for the company.]
    • As a noun, the correct word is almost always effect. [Example: We hope the new rules have the desired effect.]
  • Among; between. Use among when referring to more than two people or things; use between when referring to two people or things.
  • Assure, ensure, insure. Assure means to “give confidence.” Ensure means to “make certain.” Insure means to “protect against loss.”
  • Career readiness education (CRE). K12’s preferred term to describe career technical education.
  • Career technical education (CTE). In general, K12 does not use this term, but, when necessary, do not use the word “and” (career and technical …).
  • Class Connect sessions
  • Educational v. Education. If the word being modified is something educational, then use educational; however, if the word that is being modified is not something educational, use education. [Example: “K12 is an education company that sells educational products.”]
  • Farther; further. Farther refers to distance; further refers to degree. Examples: New York is farther away from D.C. than it is from Baltimore. On further consideration, I’ll go to Baltimore.
    Fewer; less. Use fewer for things that can be counted singly. Use less for things that cannot be counted singly. Example: “The museum had fewer visitors last year than the year before.” “The wetlands had less rain than usual this year.”
  • Free. Do not reference K12’s public school offerings as being “free.” The ONLY term we can use to describe the cost of our managed public schools is tuition-free. We must also include the tuition-free disclaimer, even if the term tuition-free doesn’t appear in the copy. Note: Do not use the term tuition-free in any marketing for schools in Pennsylvania.

    The term free can ONLY be used if something is 100% free with no conditions or no requirements for things (e.g., materials) that cost money. For example: Tallo is, and will always be, 100% free for students and young professionals to use. If in doubt, check with Legal before using “free.”
  • iQ Academy always takes a lowercase “i” at the beginning, even if it starts a sentence
  • Individualized Learning Plan (ILP)
  • K12-powered. At a national level, we cannot legally call them “our schools” or “our students.” We say “K12-powered schools” and “students at K12-powered schools.” For local, school-specific efforts, we may say “OHVA students” or “our” when written on behalf of the specific school only.
  • Learning Coach is always capped when referring to parents/ helping adults—but lowercase when referencing Keystone learning coaches (Keystone employees)
  • More than. Always use instead of “over” when referring to numbers
  • OLS. The Online Learning School (our online interface or “classroom” for students in grades K–8)
  • Stride K12. Do not use. This is an old branding effort that we are no longer utilizing. Stride is our corporate identity; K12 and K12-powered are used for our schools and their offerings. Unless Stride, Inc. is the entity being marketed, do not use unless explicitly requested.
  • Strong Start program is always capped when referring to the K12 offering
  • While. Do not add a comma before “while” if it means “during the same time”—Do add a comma before “while” if it means “whereas” or “although”
  • www. When writing a URL for printed collateral, do not use “www.” —www. is only present in an actual hyperlink to be included in HTML

Appendix

K12 style does not superscript ordinals after grades, it should be 8th not 8th.
K12 style does not use fraction characters, it should be 1/2 not ½.
Use the steps below to ensure your Word documents default properly.

On a PC in Word

  1. Click the File tab in the upper left corner of the screen
  2. Select Options
  3. Select Proofing in the left pane
  4. Click AutoCorrect Options
  5. Select the AutoFormat tab
  6. Uncheck
    – Fractions
    – Ordinals
    Click Okay
  7. Select the AutoFormat As You Type tab
  8. Uncheck
    – Fractions
    – Ordinals
    Click Okay

On a Mac in Word

  1. Click Word in the upper left corner of the screen
  2. Select Preferences
  3. Select Autocorrect
  4. Select AutoFormat As You Type
    – Uncheck: Fractions (1/2) with fraction character (½)
    – Uncheck: Ordinals (1st) with superscript
  5. Click the red X to close and save