Branding > Editorial Guide

This guide will help you stay consistent, authentic, and grammatically correct when writing for CPS.


To ensure that CPS speaks with a single voice—one consistent, authentic and grammatically correct style—the Communications Team has created this editorial style guide. Based primarily on The Associated Press Style Book, this resource includes basic rules of written communication such as punctuation, capitalization, and abbreviations, as well as some specific guidelines that are unique to our District. It should act as your guide when creating communications for CPS stakeholders, which may include teachers, principals, parents, support staff, and community partners.

For any questions regarding this guide or CPS branding, please contact the Office of Communications.

Learn about how you can manage your web presence and communicate better with your audience on our Web Content Authors page.

Quick Tips for Writing

  • Begin each communication with your key message – the information you want your reader to remember.

  • Use active voice whenever possible (i.e., “Twelve teachers attended the event” instead of “The event was attended by twelve teachers”).

  • Tailor the tone of your communication to your audience (informative for educators, friendly and concise for parents, etc).

  • Write simply and clearly, without an overabundance of technical language or professional jargon.

  • Strive to sound authentic rather than institutional.

  • The CPS voice should be confident but sincere. Authoritative, but without pretense.

Alphabetized Style Guide

Below you will find an alphabetized style guide, as well as clarification on commonly confused words and phrases.

Download the complete Style Guide [PDF]



Abbreviations with two letters should include periods (U.S.), while those with three or more letters should not (USA, FBI).


When using an acronym for the first time, spell out the full name of the organization or program with the acronym following in parentheses. The acronym can stand alone in all future references.

  • My sister is a teacher at Chicago Public Schools (CPS). She enjoys working for CPS.

Board of Education

The full name of the CPS Board is “Chicago Board of Education” and the acronym is CBOE. Once you have spelled out the full name in a communication, the acronym, or “Board” with a capital B, is acceptable in future references.

Chicago Public Schools

Chicago Public Schools is plural, CPS is singular, and the District is singular. Follow these examples when using these terms:

  • Chicago Public Schools are committed to providing all children with access to a high-quality education.
  • CPS is the nation’s third-largest school district.
  • The District has 664 schools across the city.

Comma in a Series

Include a comma before the last item in a series.

  • The American flag is red, white, and blue (not red, white and blue).


Dollar amounts should always be written as follows:

  • CPS has invested $100 million into expanding IB and STEM programming across the District.
  • The District has a projected budget deficit of $1.1 billion.


An En dash (as wide as the letter n) should be used to illustrate a range:

  • 2006 - 2011
  • CPS is the nation’s third-largest school district.
  • December 25 - January 31

Microsoft Word users can create the En dash by placing a space on either side of a hyphen.

An Em dash (as wide as the letter m) is used to set something apart from the rest of a sentence:

  • The Office of Diverse Learner Supports and Services—ODLSS—serves students with unique learning needs.

Days and Months

Always capitalize days of the week and do not abbreviate them.

Always capitalize the months of the year, and only abbreviate them if they are being used with a specific date:

  • Feb. 22, Oct. 7

The months of March, April, May, June, and July should not be abbreviated. The other months of the year should be abbreviated as Jan., Feb., Aug., Sep., Oct., Nov., and Dec., when used with a specific date (see example above).

Spell out the name of all months when alone, or when used with a year:

An Em dash (as wide as the letter m) is used to set something apart from the rest of a sentence:

  • August 2014
  • November 16, 1978

Dates should appear as a number only. Do not add st, nd, rd, or th (January 3, not January 3rd).

Use a comma after both the day and year when using them in a sentence:

  • We left for vacation on July 13, 2012, and returned the following week.


When referring to Chicago Public Schools as “the District”, always capitalize the D in District.


In general, use a 12 point font - either Arial or Times New Roman.

For press releases, use the following guidelines:

  • Headlines should be bold, underlined, and in Arial 14-16 pt.
  • Sub-heads should be italicized and in Arial 12 pt.
  • All other text should be in Times New Roman, 12 pt.


A hyphen is a very short dash that indicates a link between words:

  • after-school
  • much-loved

Do not use a hyphen after adverbs ending in y (highly regarded, not highly-regarded)

Do not use a hyphen when words do not modify a noun (i.e., Use hyphen when saying “she plays in an after-school soccer league”, but not when saying “She plays in a soccer league after school”).


The following locations are considered part of CPS Central Office:

Chicago Public Schools Loop Office 42 W. Madison St. Chicago, IL 60602 Chicago Public SchoolS Bridgeport Office 501 W. 35th St. Chicago, IL 60616 Chicago Public Schools Garfield Park Office 2651 W. Washington Blvd. Chicago, IL 60612


Margins should be set at 1 inch on all sides of a document.


CPS schools are divided into 15 Networks. When referring to a specific Network, always capitalize the letter “N”.


Always spell out numbers that start a sentence (except for years).

Hyphenate when a number is part of a compound modifier.

  • three-day conference, 30-minute meeting

In general, spell out whole numbers less than 10. Use numerals for numbers equal to or higher than 10.

  • Today’s test took eight hours. Another 10 hours of testing is expected.

Age—Always use numerals when referring to people or things:

  • a 6-year-old girl
  • an 8-year-old law

Grade—Use ordinals (st, nd, rd, th) when referring to grades. Use figures for grades 10 and above. Spell out for first through ninth grades.

  • 10th grade
  • fourth grade
  • fifth-grader (note hyphen)
  • first-grade student


When referring to a specific office or department within CPS, follow this capitalization format:

  • Office of Teaching and Learning
  • Office of Language and Culture
  • CPS Communications Department


Use the word “percent” rather than % in formal writing.

  • Students showed a 20 percent increase in reading scores.
  • We have seen 30 percent less snow than we did a year ago.

Phone Numbers

Put area codes in parentheses with a comma before an extension:

  • You can reach the CPS Communications Office at (773) 553-1000, ext. 1620.

School Names

In general, when a school is named after a person, use only the person’s last name when referring to that school.

  • Jones College Prep
  • Clemente High School


Do not capitalize the first letter of a season unless it begins a sentence (i.e., spring 2015, not Spring 2015).


Use only one space after a period, and one line of space between paragraphs.

Student Names

In general, use a student’s first name, last initial and his/her school when the communication is not confidential:

  • Jane S. from Alcott Elementary School won first place at this year’s Invention Convention.


Use the following format when spelling out time:

  • 9 a.m. (not 9:00 a.m. or 9am)
  • 7 p.m. (not 7:00 p.m. or 7pm)
  • The event will be held from 7 - 10 p.m.

Avoid using “this morning” or “tonight” with a.m. and p.m., as it is redundant.


All titles (Principal, Director, Manager) are capitalized when they immediately precede a person’s name, but not when used after or without a name.

  • Principal Christine Brown attended the curriculum meeting.
  • Christine Brown, the principal at Smith Elementary, attended the curriculum meeting.
  • The curriculum meeting was attended by the school’s principal.


In electronic-only communications, use hyperlink specific text rather than spelling out URLs.

  • Please submit a TechCo Superstar Nomination Form and tell us what makes your nominee a Superstar.
  • Please contact the ITS Training Team.

In printed materials and downloadable PDFs, spell out URLs. Do not include http://www. when referring to CPS sites.

  • For information on Back-to-School, visit


When referring to a specific school year/fiscal year, use one of the following formats:

  • Attendance rose during the 2013-2014 School Year.
  • Students performed well in Math during SY 11-12.
  • Budgets for FY 16 have not yet been released.
  • CPS invested heavily in technology during the 2012-2013 Fiscal Year.

Commonly Confused Words and Phrases

Below is clarification on spelling, punctuation and usage of commonly confused words and phrases.

  • all right (never alright)
  • a while (noun, use to mean a period of time [e.g., I will be in a meeting for a while] ≠ awhile (adverb, use to mean for a time [e.g., we talked awhile — NOTE: the preposition for is not used])
  • bilingual
  • bimonthly (every other month), semimonthly (twice a month)
  • bipartisan
  • biweekly (every other week), semiweekly (twice a week)
  • canceled (not cancelled)
  • cellphone, smartphone
  • check box
  • check-in (noun, adjective), check in (verb)
  • checklist (one word)
  • co-author, co-founder, co-host, co-partner, co-sponsor, co-worker
  • co-create
  • coed, coeducation
  • compliment (praise) ≠ complement (to complete something)
  • continual (continue with pauses or breaks) ≠ continuous (continue without interruption) ≠ contiguous (next or together in sequence)
  • convince (in reference to concepts and beliefs) ≠ persuade (in reference to behaviors and actions)
  • copy edit, copy editor, copy editing (two words)
  • decision-makers, decision-making
  • do’s and don’ts
  • double-check (noun, verb)
  • email (not e-mail)
  • entitled (a right to do or have something, don’t use to mean titled) ≠ titled (used to introduce a title)
  • everyday (commonplace) ≠ every day (each day)
  • fact sheet
  • federal (lowercase unless part of formal title [e.g.,
  • Federal Reserve, the federal government])
  • firsthand (adjective, adverb)
  • follow-up (noun), follow up (verb)
  • front page (noun [e.g., on the front page])
  • further (in reference to extension of degree) ≠ farther (in reference to physical distance)
  • how-to (adjective [e.g., how-to guide]), how to (verb [e.g., how to update your iPad])
  • i.e. (that is) ≠ e.g. (for example) (NOTE: always use a comma after i.e. or e.g.)
  • keyword (one word)
  • kickoff (noun, adjective), kick off (verb)
  • long-term, long term (hyphenate for compound modifiers [e.g., long-term assignment, we’ll know in the long term])
  • longtime (e.g., longtime vendor), long time (e.g., knew each other for a long time)
  • lowercase, uppercase (one word; can be used as noun,
  • verb and adjective)
  • may (implies a strong possibility [e.g., I may help
  • myself to another cookie if they refill the tray]) ≠ might (implies much more uncertainty [e.g., the plane
  • might be delayed due to the weather])
  • mid-December
  • midsize (not midsized)
  • midyear
  • more than vs. over: more than is preferred with numbers, but not required
  • New Year’s Day, New Year’s Eve, the new year
  • nonprofit, not-for-profit
  • ongoing
  • on-site, off-site (adjectives [e.g., on-site meeting, the meeting is off-site])
  • out-of-pocket (e.g., out-of-pocket expenses), out of pocket (e.g., I paid out of pocket, she will be out of pocket [i.e., unreachable] next week)
  • paperwork
  • policymaker, policymaking
  • prearrange, precondition, predate, predispose
  • pre-empt, pre-establish
  • pre-K
  • pretest, post-test
  • problem-solving
  • pro bono
  • redesign
  • relaunch
  • retool
  • rollout (noun), roll out (verb)
  • setup (noun), set up (verb)
  • short-term/short term (hyphenate for compound modifiers [e.g., short-term lease, goals for the short term])
  • slideshow
  • socio-economic
  • timeout
  • toward (not towards)
  • traveled (not travelled)
  • up-and-coming
  • up-to-date, up to date (hyphenate attributive adjectives but not adverbs [e.g., up-to-date software, stay up to date on industry news])
  • voicemail
  • well-being
  • word-of-mouth (adjective, noun)
  • write-up (noun), write up (verb)

Commonly Used Acronyms

  • CPS (Chicago Public Schools)
  • PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career)
  • ISAT (Illinois State Achievement Test)
  • NWEA (Northwest Education Assessment)
  • ISBE (Illinois State Board of Education)
  • ODLSS (Office of Diverse Learner Supports and Services)
  • I and I (Innovation and Incubation)
  • OSHW (Office of Student Health and Wellness)
  • OS4 (Office of Strategic School Support Services)
  • CEO (Chief Executive Officer)
  • CBOE (Chicago Board of Education)
  • CCC (City Colleges of Chicago)
  • FACE (Family and Community Engagement)
  • AUSL (Academy for Urban School Leadership)
  • UNO
  • ONS (Office of Network Support)
  • ITS (Information and Technology Services)
  • CTU (Chicago Teachers’ Union)
  • IB (International Baccalaureate)
  • STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math)
  • ECE (Early Childhood Education)
  • RTL (Ready to Learn)
  • OCCS (Office of College and Career Success)
  • LSC (Local School Council)
  • MTNG (Mentoring the Next Generation)
  • CCSR (Chicago Consortium on School Research)
  • UIC (University of Illinois at Chicago)
  • UC (University of Chicago)
  • SLT (Senior Leadership Team)

Page Last Modified on Thursday, October 08, 2015