Writing Style

In general, AISD uses the “Associated Press Style Book.” It is the go-to source for journalists and communications professionals. It also is among the most respected writing guides throughout the United States and world—from local newspapers to global media organizations and among universities and international businesses.

Abbreviations and Acronyms

Generally, spell out the full name of an organization or program on first reference. Remember, AISD serves students whose families speak more than 90 languages. It is always helpful to provide the full name on first reference. Commonly known abbreviations such as CNN or SAT can be used on all references in communications to audiences familiar with the acronyms.

Academic Degrees 

Use an apostrophe in bachelor's degree and master's degree, but do not include an apostrophe in associate degree or doctoral degree. Avoid abbreviations and use the names of degrees: Linda Webb earned a doctorate in curriculum and instruction. Avoid the passive voice when describing a person's education: She received a degree from Harvard University. Instead, use the active voice: She earned a degree from Harvard University.

Adviser

Use academic adviser, not advisor.

AISD.TV — Channel 22

AISD.TV, commonly known as Channel 22, is the district’s educational cable television channel, which creates original content such as “Inside AISD” and promotes national programs from NASA and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. AISD.TV includes broadcast and online programming.

Alumni

Use alumnus (alumni in the plural) when referring to a man who has attended a school. Use alumna (alumnae in the plural) for similar references to a woman. Use alumni when referring to a group of men and women.

After-school Program

Hyphenate when using as an adjective to describe a program or activity (e.g. after-school tutoring). Use two words when using as a preposition to refer to time (e.g. Tutoring is scheduled after school).

Athletics

Use athletics when referring to the district’s sports programs. Use athletic director, not athletics director (e.g. Leal Anderson, athletic director, will speak with reporters before the game.)

Attendance Area

Refer to school boundaries as the attendance area. Avoid attendance zone. Do not use zone as a verb. Do not describe the process for assigning students to attendance areas as families are zoned to their neighborhood school or the district is zoning children in this area to a new school.

Austin Independent School District

Use the Austin Independent School District on first reference. Austin ISD is acceptable on first reference if the communication is for audiences familiar with the district. Use AISD or the district on subsequent references.

Board of Trustees

The formal name of the district’s governing body is the Board of Trustees. The verb should agree with the singular word board. Example: The Board of Trustees is scheduled to take action Monday. On second reference, it is acceptable to use either the board or trustees. Do not capitalize board or trustees on second reference.

Capitalization

Do not capitalize words unless they are at the beginning of a sentence or part of a formal name or program.

Chapter 41 — Recapture

Chapter 41 is the part of the Texas Education Code that requires local tax revenues from “property-rich” school districts to be sent to the state through what is known as “recapture.” It is commonly referred to as Robin Hood. Avoid using Chapter 41 unless referring to the code or legislation. Instead, use recapture and provide an explanation on first reference.

Commas

Do not include a comma before the last item in a series: Registration is open Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Community Schools

Community schools is a national model that encourages schools to build partnerships that bring community resources to their campuses. AISD embraces the approach, which is designed to improve student learning, while supporting stronger families and healthier communities. Avoid confusing the community schools model with Communities in Schools, which is a district partner.

Days of the Week and Months

Capitalize days of the week and do not abbreviate the names of the days. Capitalize the months of the year. Do not abbreviate the names of months if they stand alone. If months are part of a date, abbreviate January as Jan., February as Feb., August as Aug., September as Sept., October as Oct., November as Nov. and December as Dec.Jan. 15, 2016, not Jan. 15th, 2016.

Disabilities

There is no need to focus on a disability unless it is part of the description of a program or service—or it is a crucial aspect of the communication. When covering a program that serves people with disabilities, emphasize abilities, not limitations. Present facts and do not make assumptions or judgments about perceived limitations.

Individuals who have disabilities have the right to choose what they wish to be called, either as a group or on an individual basis.

Examples:

  • People with hearing loss prefer to be called deaf or hard of hearing, according to the National Association of the Deaf.
  • Do not use mentally retarded. Special Olympics and Best Buddies use people with intellectual disabilities.
  • Do not use wheelchair-bound. Instead, explain why someone uses a wheelchair.

Early College High Schools

Early college high schools offer AISD students the opportunity to enroll in Austin Community College to earn college credit and an associate degree upon graduation. AISD has three early college high schools: LBJ, Reagan and Travis.

Email, E-terms and Web Words

Email is not hyphenated and the “e” is not capitalized unless it is at the start of the sentence. Other web words: Internet (capitalized), log in and log out (verbs, two words with no hyphen), login and logout (nouns, one word with no hyphen), multimedia, offline and online (one word with no hyphen), website (one word, not capitalized). 

English-language Learners

Capitalize English-language Learners when referring to specific programs. Do not abbreviate as ELL on first reference. Avoid describing or labeling students simply as ELLs. Instead, use the acronym in combination with the word students (i.e. students who are English-language learners or ELL students).

There is no need to focus on language proficiency unless it is part of the description of a program or service—or it is a crucial aspect of the communication. When covering a program that serves people for whom English may not be a first language, emphasize abilities, not limitations. Present facts and do not make assumptions or judgments about perceived limitations.

Employees

Use team members instead of employees or staff members unless the reference would be unclear.

Ethnic Sensitivities

Do not focus on a person’s ethnicity unless it is part of the description of a program or service—or it is a crucial aspect of the communication. When covering a program designed for specific communities or people who identify themselves as being part of specific ethnic groups, do not make assumptions or judgments based on perceived stereotypes.

Always ask individuals about their preference.

  • African-American/black: It is acceptable to use the terms interchangeably to describe black people in the United States of African ancestry. Note: Some black Americans may prefer Caribbean-American depending on their ancestry.
  • American Indian/Native American: The terms are synonymous. When possible, use national affiliations such as Navajo or Cherokee rather than the generic American Indian or Native American.
  • Asian, Asian-American: Use Asian when referring to people from Asia, but use Asian-American when specifically referring to people of Asian ancestry who are American citizens.
  • Mexican, Mexican-American, Hispanic, Latino/Latina: Use Mexican when referring to people who have Mexican citizenship and use Mexican-American when referring to people of Mexican ancestry who are permanent residents or citizens of the United States. Hispanic and Latino/Latina are umbrella terms referring to a person whose ethnic origin is in a Spanish-speaking country, as well as residents or citizens of the United States with Latin American ancestry.

Adapted from AP and the News Watch Diversity Style Guide

Facility and School Names

Use the formal name of a facility or school on the first reference. In general, when a school is named after a person, only use the person’s last name such as Anderson High School. Capitalize school or center when it is used as part of the formal name. For example, use Cunningham Elementary School for the first reference, Cunningham or elementary school or the school for subsequent references.

Family Resource Centers

AISD has eight Family Resource Centers, which provide support and resources to families in five basic areas: housing, employment, access to healthcare, social connections and education. The district’s FRCs are at Burnet, Dobie, Martin and Mendez middle schools, Webb primary and middle schools, Lanier High School and LBJ and Reagan early college high schools.

Free or Reduced-price Lunch

Use free or reduced-price lunch. Reduced-cost is acceptable. Do not use reduced-lunch, which implies the lunch—not the cost—is reduced.

Funds

AISD’s budget is organized in categories: 

  • General Fund is used to pay for salaries and benefits and all the things a school needs when it opens its doors, including classroom resources, keeping schools clean and landscapes maintained, transporting students, paying utility bills, providing clerical and administrative support.
  • Food Service Fund is used for the operation of the district’s food service program. 
  • Debt Service Fund is used to pay off bonds previously approved by voters or building construction and renovation. 
  • Special Revenue Fund is used to account for the proceeds of specific sources of revenue such as federal, state or local grants. These funds are tied to specific program deliverables and expenditure restrictions. 
  • Construction Fund is used for construction and renovation projects in district facilities.

Grade Levels

When describing students based on their grade, use a hyphen. For example: fifth-graders, not fifth graders. Also, use a hyphen when using the grade level as an adjective. For example: all fourth- and fifth-graders.

Numbers 

Spell out numbers from one through nine and when a sentence begins with a number. Use figures for 10 and above. Examples: third grade, fifth grade, 11th grade and 12th grade.

Percent

Use the word percent rather than the % symbol when using percentages or percentage points in text.

Prekindergarten

Use prekindergarten on first reference and Pre-K on second reference or when referring to a specific program.

Social Media: Twitter

To cross-promote posts on Twitter, call out AISD usernames and use districtwide hashtags.

  • AISD usernames include: @AustinISD for the district's main account, @AISDSupt for the superintendent and @AISDConnect for the communications team.
  • AISD hashtags include: #AISDProud and #Viva AISD, #WeAreAISD and #SomosAISD, and #AISDSuperheroes (both plural and singular).

There are no spaces between words in usernames or hashtags. See Twitter glossary.

Spaces

Only use one space after a period at the end of a sentence. 

Special Education

Capitalize Special Education when referring to specific programs. Do not abbreviate as SPED on first reference. Avoid describing or labeling students simply as SPEDs. Instead, use the acronym in combination with the word students (i.e. students who are in the Special Education program or special education students).

There is no need to focus on a disability unless it is part of the description of a program or service—or it is a crucial aspect of the communication. When covering a program that serves people with disabilities, emphasize abilities, not limitations. Present facts and do not make assumptions or judgments about perceived limitations.

Individuals who have special needs or disabilities have the right to choose what they wish to be called, either as a group or on an individual basis. For example: Do not use mentally retarded. Special Olympics and Best Buddies use people with intellectual disabilities.

Superintendent

Capitalize only when used as part of a formal office name or as a title preceding a name. For example: Superintendent Paul Cruz.

Telephone Numbers

Use hyphens for phone numbers such as 512-414-1700. Do not use parenthesis.

The

Only capitalize the when it is the first word in a sentence or when it is part of a formal name.

Time

Use 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., not 8:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Do not repeat a.m. or p.m. unnecessarily. For example, an event is from 6 to 8 p.m., not 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. There also is no need to use tonight with p.m. or this morning with a.m. because that would be redundant.

Title I

In general, Title I describes federal aid availble to schools that serve a high percentage of students from economically disadvantaged households. Title I also is the first title of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, relating to “Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged.” Avoid labeling students or schools based on the type of federal funds for which schools are eligible. 

Titles

Capitalize titles when they precede the person’s name. Example: Principal Anabel Garza welcomes families to tour the campus.

Vertical Team

A vertical team is a group of schools consisting of a high school and its feeder middle and elementary schools. Avoid using vertical team unless it is well-understood by the audience. For communications with community members, use family of schools. Example: Interested in earning a college degree and high school diploma at the same time? Join the LBJ early college high school family of schools.