Style Guide

Dale–Chall readability formula


  1. Use an en dash (–; CMS 15th, 6.83–6.86) between words, or, more often, numbers to mean "to," indicating a range.
    Thus, January–June, 1997; May 4–9, 1997. (Do not use hyphen or em dash here.) On a Mac, type option-hyphen to get an en dash. On a PC, type Alt + 0150 on the numeric keypad or Ctrl + the minus sign.
    1. Use an en dash between words of equal weight in a compound adjective: adult–child interactions, teacher–student ratio, Gates–MacGinitie Reading Test.
    2. An en dash is also used in place of a hyphen to join a prefix to an open compound or in a compound adjective when one of its elements consists of an open compound or when both elements consist of hyphenated compounds: "pre–Civil War," "non–Roman Catholic," "post–Cold War era," "Newbery Medal–winning author," "a quasi-public–quasi-judicial body". Note that a single word or prefix should be joined to a hyphenated compound by another hyphen rather than an en dash; if the result is awkward, reword: non-English-speaking peoples, two-thirds-full cup (or, better, a cup that is two-thirds full).
    3. In nonscientific running text, if words like between or from precede the words or numerals, use to, and, or similar words instead of an en dash (which might mean any of these). Examples: "Basals were used from September through June" (not from September–June). "Franklin D. Roosevelt served as president from March 1933 to April 1945" (not March 1933–April 1945). Also correct: "FDR served as president between March 1933 and April 1945."
  2. Use an em dash (—; CMS 15th, 6.87–6.93) or a pair of hyphens (--) to emphasize material set apart from the normal flow of the sentence. Thus, "Our visitor—an old friend, really—was Mrs. Rodriguez." or "The class had a special visitor—Mrs. Rodriguez!" In dialogue, an em dash can also be used to indicate a pause. Thus, "Well," said the stranger, "if you insist—" On a Mac, type option-shift-hyphen to get an em dash. On a PC, type Alt + 0151 on numeric keypad or Ctrl + Alt + the minus sign. On a typewriter, and in certain online publications, an em dash is represented by 2 hyphens (--).
  3. Standard use calls for no extra space before or after an em or en dash, though in some contexts—book covers, advertisements, and promotional material, for example—such space is sometimes added for graphic effect.

Use data are (not data is). The word data is a plural noun.



  1. Use commas (before and after) to separate the year in a complete date: "Tuesday, July 4, 1876, was an exciting day."
  2. Do not use commas if only month and year are given: "July 1996 was marked by cool weather."

day care (n.)

day-care (adjective preceding noun)


DEAR = Drop Everything And Read

Debes's (additional s needed because the name has fewer than two syllables; see CMS 15th, 7.20)

Decades expressed in numeral form do not take apostrophes: In the 1940s, a woman in her mid-30s began to study the fashions of the mid-1920s.

decision makers (This is a two-word phrase, per WNWD.)

decision-making / decision making

  1. Hyphenate this compound when using it as an adjective preceding the noun it modifies. (Note: CMS 15th, 7.90 specifies that a compound adjective formed by a noun + participle is usually hyphenated.) Thus, "The decision-making process was a tedious affair."
  2. The noun form takes no hyphen (CMS 15th, 7.90: noun + gerund). Thus, "Decision making can be a long, painful process for people who demand perfection of themselves."


a delegate, the delegates
Capitalize as part of the formal name of a group, (e.g., ILA Delegates Assembly). Otherwise, lowercase (e.g., He has been selected as a delegate to the conference.).

department / Department
Capitalize as part of the formal name of a group (e.g., the Department of Chemistry). Otherwise, lowercase (e.g., chemistry department).


Developmental Reading Assessment = DRA

dialogue (see also discussion and interviews)

dial-up (adj.)

Diamond State Reading Association (Delaware) = DSRA

differ from / differ with
When to differ means "to be unlike," the standard usage is differ from. (How does a nine-iron differ from a pitching wedge?) When to differ means "to disagree," use differ with. (Woods differed with his caddie about which club to use.)

different from / different than / different to
Different from is considered standard usage in both British and American English. Different than sometimes raises objection but is acceptable, especially when followed by a clause. Different to is almost entirely a British usage and should be avoided in most Association publications (M-WDEU).

Directed Listening–Thinking Activity = DL-TA (also DLTA)

Directed Reading–Thinking Activity = DR-TA (also DRTA)

directionals (postal format)

Abbreviate directional words that appear before and after street names:
N Bay St
E End Ave
Bay Blvd SW

Exception: Spell out where necessary to avoid ambiguity:
1234 S Street Rd (not S St Rd)
1234 S State Rd (not S St Rd)

Exception: In combinations of North-South or East-West, the second word should be spelled out:
501 N South St
6124 W East End Ave

Spell out directionals that are part of city names:

West Stockbridge, MA (not W Stockbridge)
East Saint Louis, IL (not E Saint Louis)

directional terms
The basic rule is simple: When used to designate directions, words like west and western, north, south, eastern, and so on, are lowercased. When used as part of the formal name of a place, the words are capitalized. Difficulty arises, however, when the terms are used to name regions. Use of the capitalized form in these cases presumes that the reader will understand which region is being referred to, and accelerating cultural changes make confusion increasingly possible. (If we say that Ronald Reagan was a firm believer in Western values, are we referring to the western United States., to so-called "Western civilization," or something else?) ILA authors and editors should be wary of using the capitalized forms unless their meaning in context is very clear to the reader.

director / Director

  • Capitalize as part of formal title, especially preceding a person's name: Director of Strategic Communications Dan Mangan.
  • Lowercase as a common noun or job description: the director of a project, division directors; Dan Mangan is ILA's strategic communications director.

disabilities (APA 6th, 3.15)
Avoid terms and expressions that may be used to stereotype or dehumanize people with disabilities. Do not equate people with their disabilities. Use people-first language for individuals and groups of people (e.g., person with paraplegia).


Discourse(s) (as related to the work of Gee)


discussion and interviews
The transcription of a discussion or an interview should have the speaker's name followed by a colon, and interjections such as "laughter" are enclosed in brackets. For material included in brackets, punctuation and initial capitalization should be used when it forms a complete sentence, but lowercase and no punctuation should be used when it is not a complete sentence.

Paragraph indentation is usually preferred to flush-and-hang style, to avoid the appearance of an excerpt from a drama and also because respondents' comments may be lenghty. Flush-and-hang style, however, which allows easier identification of the speaker, may work better if many speakers' names appear and the comments are relatively brief.


distances and dimensions

  • To abbreviate inches and feet, use primes rather than curly quotes: 5' 11" (or mark for typesetters).
  • Use numeral with spelled-out units: 5 miles to town; a 25-mile hike; a 6-inch nail.


Ditto (This is a proper name and must be capitalized.)

division / Division

  • Capitalize as part of formal name: the Publications Division, the Division of Research and Policy
  • Otherwise and thereafter, lowercase: this division, that division, the divisions, division directors.

DL-TA (also DLTA) = Directed Listening–Thinking Activity

a doctorate in chemistry

dos and don'ts

double punctuation
Except for quotation marks and parentheses, which are often used with other punctuation marks, avoid doubling punctuation marks: ?, ?. !, !. incorrect: Reporters are taught to ask five questions: who?, what?, when?, where?, and why?. Correct: Reporters are taught to ask five questions: who, what, when, where, and why.

double spaces
In the days before typing was called "keyboarding," we were all taught to use two spaces after a period, two spaces after a colon, and two spaces between the state and the zip code in an address. Now, in the world of word processing, the rules have changed.

When preparing camera-ready copy or an item that will be set in type, do not double space after a period, after a colon, or before a zip code. Use single spaces only. If you're given a document to edit that contains double spaces, you must convert them all to single spaces.

When you are typing a document that will not be reproduced (e.g., a single letter, a memo, or an envelope), the decision whether to double space is up to you.


DRA = Developmental Reading Assessment

Drop Everything and Read = DEAR

drop out (v.)

dropout (n.)

DR-TA = Directed Reading–Thinking Activity

dry-erase board (preferred over whiteboard to avoid confusion with interactive whiteboard)

DSRA = Diamond State Reading Association (Delaware)

due to / because of
According to CMS 15th, 5.202, use of due to as a synonym of because of is nonstandard in all cases except immediately following a form of the verb to be. Thus, "New literacy programs in Belize are succeeding because of the efforts of volunteers." But, "The success of the projects is due to the efforts of volunteers."

due to the fact that
Wordy. Use because.

during-reading activity