Samford University

Style Notes & Course Description Guidelines

Style NotesCourse Description Guidelines | Examples
Note Related to Banner & DegreeWorks Coding

Style Notes:

CAPITALIZATION - According to Associated Press (AP) style, as well as the Samford University Style Manual, the following items are not typically capitalized:
  • Degrees (bachelor of arts in music, master of science in environmental management, etc.)
  • Majors, minors, & concentrations (unless proper nouns like English, French, Latin American studies etc.)
  • Departments (unless the first time mentioned, such as the Department of Aeronautics, but later, the aeronautics department)
  • Titles (unless part of a heading or official listing, or part of a mailing address: "John Doe, Director of Graduate Studies," but in narrative text: the director of graduate studies or the graduate studies director)

Beginning with the 2007-08 catalog, we more stringently adopted AP standards with regards to capitalization. This change is being made to achieve greater consistency in format, to aid in text readability, and to reduce confusion.

The following guidelines will be used as we make revisions:

  • When referring to any degree within paragraph format, it will be lowercase (associate of science, bachelor of arts in history, etc.). If a degree includes a proper noun, such nouns will be capitalized (bachelor of arts in English, bachelor of arts in Latin American history, etc.)
  • In lists and headings--such as those at the beginning of a section--degrees, majors, minors, concentrations, etc., will be capitalized. The change to lowercase only applies to mention of those same items within a paragraph of text.

While we still employ standards for the catalog that are not 100% AP style, as a matter of preference (advisor instead of adviser, some punctuation choices, etc.), the issue of capitalization has been the cause of some confusion. Adopting a more uniform standard will improve the look of the catalog and reduce the possibility of errors.

Additionally, disciplines or generic course titles will not be capitalized unless they are associated with a Samford course prefix/number or if they are a proper noun (i.e., any religion course may be substituted for a course in the Old Testament with advisor's approval; a zoology course may be taken in place of anatomy and physiology; etc.)

HYPHENATION - There has been some inconsistency with regards to hyphenation in the catalog. We are striving to achieve AP style and will only use hyphenation if it is the AP standard, or in cases where it would be confusing to omit it. Non words are generally NOT hyphenated, while Co words generally are.

Course Description Guidelines:

The following guidelines are strongly recommended as part of the overall academic catalog revision process. Please keep these guidelines in mind when creating new courses or revising existing courses.

  • Recommended maximum length: 80 words, excluding title and prereq/course offering notes at the end. However, endnotes should be succinct and abbreviated whenever possible (see examples).
  • How to determine the word count of the course description:
  • If working in Word, highlight the course description (excluding the prereq/course offering notes), click on Tools, and choose Word Count. A shortcut button can be placed on the Word toolbar to recount other course descriptions more quickly.
  • First sentence to begin with a noun (or a noun modified by an adjective) and should be a sentence fragment.

  • Introduction to...
  • Continuation of...
  • Overview of...
  • Study of...
  • Survey of...
  • Historical Survey of...
  • Examination of...
  • Exploration of...
  • Field-based exploration of...

Remaining sentences in course description can be fragments or complete. Exceptions may apply to some courses (i.e., Independent Study and Internships, for example) that do not lend themselves to such description styles. These will be reviewed on an individual basis.

Whenever possible:

  • Use present tense. Avoid use of future tense.
  • Use active verbs. Avoid use of passive verbs.
  • Avoid using the words “I,” “you,” or “we.”
  • Do not include course detail—like a research paper—that is more suitably listed on the syllabus. The same applies to required books, software, or equipment, unless it’s essential to state this up front.

For course titles:

  • Compare catalog copy to the course titles as seen in Banner for accuracy and consistency. For courses titles that are dynamic and can change each semester (Special Topics, Directed Studies, etc.), retain the more generic title for the print catalog. (Unique course titles in these cases will be used only for the class schedule.) In the catalog only, “J” indicators have been dropped. If the course is indeed offered only during Jan Term, a note at the end of the description can address this.

For notes at the end of the description (Prereqs, Co-Reqs, Labs/Lec, Cross-Listed Courses, Repeatable, Pass/Fail Grading, Restriction to a major or classification, etc.):

  • Lab and lecture notes should be in all caps and abbreviated, with hours per week devoted to each portion noted: LAB 4, LEC 3.
  • Use the course prefix when listing a co-req or prereq or if listing two with the same prefix (i.e., BIOL 203; NURS 452 and NURS 473). List the prefix only once if listing three or more courses that share a prefix (i.e., KINE 479, 490, and 498).

Important Note Related to Banner & DegreeWorks Coding 

The following items are coded into Banner and will be coded into DegreeWorks. In order for the specific course details to be properly applied, please provide complete and accurate information for the print catalog so that we can correspond this to coding in the system. (More guidelines needed for DegreeWorks coding may be added in the future.)

  • List prereqs and co-reqs only when applicable. If nothing is stated, it is assumed there is no prerequisite for the course. List prereqs before co-reqs.
  • That said, please list all prerequisites and co-requisites that ARE applicable.
  • If a prerequisite has a minimum grade required, please include that information.
  • If the course is repeatable and if there are maximum credits allowed, please indicate this.
  • If the course is graded pass/fail only, please indicate this.
  • If the course is restricted to specific majors/minors or to students with a specific classification (juniors and seniors only), please indicate this.
  • List co-listed/cross-listed courses, if applicable.
  • If a course is offered ONLY in a particular term (fall or spring, for instance), please indicate this. Although this info can be coded into DegreeWorks, at this time we aren't doing so. If we do choose to code for this, it might be helpful when students use the educational planner to project when they might realistically be able to graduate.

For course offering information, observe the following guidelines:

  • State course offering information only if the semester(s) in which the course is offered is unique (Fall, Jan Term, Fall and Spring, etc.). Very few courses are offered every single semester. Avoid using this term unless it's accurate.
  • For terms that are split, you can be specific (i.e., Summer 1, Summer 2) or general (Summer).
  • Avoid stating a specific year unless the course will be offered only that one time (i.e., Fall 2011). This eliminates the need to revise the note every year.
  • If a course is offered only every couple of years or every other year, say “on rotation” or “as needed.”

Other course description notes:

  • If the course is held out-of-town or out-of-the country, state this somewhere in the description.


BIOL 225 Microbiology for Allied Health Sciences (4)
Introduction to the study of microorganisms with special emphasis on their relation to human health and welfare. LEC 4, LAB 3. Prereq: One course in biology and one course in chemistry.

ENGL 350 Film History (4)
Examination of the historical development of film as an industry and a major modern art form, including important periods, movements, nationalities, genres, auteurs, and specific works. Prereq: UCCA 101 and UCCA 102. Offered: Fall, on rotation.

POLS 390 Monarchs, Bishops, and Martyrs: The English Reformation (4)
Study of historical and religious factors of the English Reformation. Course is taught in London with visits to historical sites. Co-listed as HIST 390 and RELG 390. Subfield: World Politics.

See the Course Description page of the online catalog to review the section "HOW TO READ A COURSE." This section explains what each part of a course listing means, including the abbreviation for LEC, LAB.