IRA Style Guide

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S - T - U


S, plural Ss
S. 1234 = Senate bill #1234
SAT = formerly, Scholastic Aptitude Test; more recently, Scholastic Assessment Test
schema (plural is schemata)

"-school" compounds
1. When used temporarily as an adjective, a compound noun ending in "school" is not usually hyphenated. Thus, high school curriculum (not high-school), primary school students, public school funding, etc. These are correct because high school, primary school, and public school are compound nouns (that is, we can refer to something called a high school, a primary school, or a public school).

2. Word groups like "after-school programs" take the customary hyphen because after school is an adjective phrase, not a compound noun. (We can meet after school or participate in an after-school program, but we would not be likely to call something an "after school.")

"school words"
Note the apparent inconsistency about whether phrases beginning with school should be open, closed, or hyphenated. When in doubt, check the word or phrase in WNWD.

school-age (adj. preceding noun)
school board (two words, per WNWD)
school bus
school district
school system

SCIRA = South Carolina State Council of IRA, or Swedish Council of IRA
SD = standard deviation
SEAs=state education agencies (compare LEAs, local education agencies)

second, not “secondly”
in series, first, second, third, etc., rather than firstly, secondly, thirdly, etc.

second-language acquisition
Section 6, etc., of a legal document or the Association’s bylaws. Note cap S.

Compounds beginning with the prefix self- are almost always hyphenated (see CMS 6.1):
self-assured, self-centered, self-critical, self-esteem, self-report technique, self-respect

semantic feature analysis (SFA)

Compounds beginning with the prefix semi- are almost always closed (CMS 6.1):
semiannual, semiliterate, semiskilled, semistructured

semicolon ( ; ) (APA 3.03; CMS 5.89–5.96)

The semicolon is a specialized punctuation mark that has only two standard uses:

1. A semicolon should be used to join two independent clauses that are not joined by a comma+coordinating conjunction (, and | , or | , nor | , but).
Compare: "Winnie is an enthusiastic reader. Every room in her home is filled with books" and "Winnie is an enthusiastic reader; every room in her home is filled with books."

  • A semicolon should be used to join two independent clauses, the second of which begins with a conjunctive_adverb (therefore, however, moreover, nevertheless, thus, on the other hand, accordingly, for example, additionally, likewise, nonetheless, afterward, not surprisingly, on second thought, at first, eventually, after awhile, consequently, and similar words).

    Note that the standard construction for sentences of this kind is this:

    Mary Lennox was never very fond of animals; however, under Dickon's patient instruction her fear of them subsided.
    first ind. clause - semicolon - conjunctive adverb - comma - second ind. clause

2. A semicolon can be used to subdivide a complex series (for example, a series whose components themselves contain series or other information separated by commas).
Example: “Her favorite authors include novelists Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, and Alice Walker; poets Adrienne Rich, Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, and Gwendolyn Brooks; dramatists Tom Stoppard and David Rabe; and one sublime wordsmith who transcends categories, Annie Dillard.”

(Note that semicolons are used in the sentence above to help clarify the separation of the novelists from the poets, the poets from the dramatists, and so on. Note also the "serial semicolon" [cf. serial comma] that appears between the penultimate category and the ultimate category in the series.)

semicolons, Rule of Thumb: If you don't need a semicolon, don't use it.

1. Do not use a semicolon to separate items in a series if the items do not contain internal commas. Compare "Be sure your picnic basket contains the following items: a loaf of bread; a bottle of wine; a wedge of cheese; and at least a dozen cans of insect repellent" with "Be sure your picnic basket contains the following items: a loaf of bread, a bottle of wine, a wedge of cheese, and at least a dozen cans of insect repellent."[Commas work perfectly well to separate items in this sentence, and so they should be used. Semicolons are unnecessary and therefore should be avoided.]

2. Do not use semicolons if the hierarchy of the series is easily understood without them: Example: "Her favorite authors include novelists (Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, and Alice Walker), poets (Adrienne Rich, Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, and Gwendolyn Brooks), dramatists (Tom Stoppard and David Rabe), and one sublime wordsmith who transcends categories (Annie Dillard)."

3. Do not use semicolons to join words or word groups that are not independent clauses:

  • Churchill was raised to be an English gentleman; not a politician. [independent clause + phrase]
  • The Industrial Revolution; its aftermath can still be discerned, one continent and two hundred years away. [phrase + independent clause]
  • Although most Western Europeans were brought up believing that printing began with Gutenberg; Chinese artisans were printing on textiles hundreds of years before. [dependent (subordinate) clause + dependent clause]
the U.S. Senate, the Senate, a member of the Senate
a senator, the senator
Senator Williams

September 11, 2001
Use the complete date (with the year) for first appearance in text matter. Thereafter, if no ambiguity will result, use September 11 without the year. In casual writing, callouts, captions, etc., the abbreviation 9/11 may be used.

serial comma
In a series of three or more items, the last of which is joined to the others by and, the comma preceding the and is called a serial comma. Although this comma is called optional by some authorities, it is IRA Style to include the serial comma. Thus, the phrase “apples, pears, and bananas,” which includes the serial comma, is preferred over “apples, pears and bananas,” which does not.

series and lists

SES = socioeconomic status
set up (verb)
set-up (noun or adj.)
short-term memory (STM)
SIG = Special Interest Group
sight-read (verb)
sight word
sight word vocabulary

since / because
Use of since as a preposition meaning “after” is standard and should cause few problems (“Since her graduation she has received a number of job offers.”) However, use of since as a subordinating conjunction is problematic and can lead to ambiguity: “Since she graduated in the top third of her class, she has received a number of tempting job offers.” (Because she graduated in the top third? Or after she graduated?)

Compounds beginning with the prefix socio- are almost always closed (CMS 6.1):
socioeconomic sociopsychological

socioeconomic status (SES)
softcover (not softback)

software titles
Titles of computer software, programs, tools, and the like are initial-capped in text but are not italicized (thus, Windows 95, Microsoft Word, Adobe Illustrator, Eudora, Netscape). In reference lists, these titles are neither italicized nor underlined. See APA pp. 221, 222.

south / South, southern / Southern (see directional terms)

Spache readability formula

spacing, between words (see word spacing)

Special Interest Group (SIG)
Capitalize only as part of the group’s formal name (e.g., IRA’s Special Interest Group on Adult Literacy). Otherwise, lowercase (e.g., IRA members may participate in any of 40 special interest groups . . . ).

spelling, preferred forms
1. IRA’s standard for spelling is Webster’s New World College Dictionary (2001). Where two or more spellings are listed for a word, the first spelling is the preferred form for IRA editors and authors. If a variant spelling is allowed for a given work, it should be specified on a style sheet to accompany that work.

2. American spellings (“honor”, “color”, “toward”) are preferred over British (“honour”, “colour”, “towards”). At the editor's discretion, exceptions may made for British or Commonwealth authors of books, essays, or articles who use British spellings consistently throughout their work. Such cases should be clearly indicated on a style sheet.

SQ3R = a study technique (survey-question-read-recite-review)
SSR = Sustained Silent Reading
SSRW = Sing, Spell, Read & Write (K–3 program)

Capitalize only as part of the title of a project or publication (e.g., Standards for Reading Professionals). Otherwise, lowercase: the standards, IRA’s reading standards

Standards for Reading Professionals
Revised role definitions as of 4/10/06

startup (noun or adj.)
a state council, state councils, the Tennessee state council

stationary / stationery
The “a” form—stationary—means stable, fixed, or not moving.
The “e” form—stationery—means letterhead, envelopes, and similar writing supplies.

On IRA stationery, home H, office O, and mobile M numbers may be listed. If these letter codes appear, capitalize them and add a colon after them: Tel. O: 302-731-1600, ext. 319; Tel. M: 302-555-5555; Fax H: 302-368-2449. If letter codes do not appear, use no colon: Tel. 302-731-1600, ext. 929; E-mail (note that E-mail does not require a colon). This rule is an exception to
telephone numbers, point 5.


strategies, theories, models, methods, approaches, programs
1. Names of strategies, methods, techniques, and the like, should not routinely be rendered in italics or quotation marks. The only exceptions would be for names used in a special sense, as in the examples below:

    a. Quotation marks are used to designate an explicit process of naming (name as name):
       Did Marie Clay actually invent the name, “Reading Recovery”?

    b. Italics are used to designate use of a word as word:
       The alliteration in the name Reading Recovery helps to make this approach memorable.

2. Capitalization of names is trickier, because they follow the same rules as other proper or common nouns. Check list of terms in this guide, or do a search of scholarly publications.

    a. Some of these are formal names (e.g., trademarked, registered, named for a specific individual, or official in some other sense) and should be rendered in title case. Examples include Reading Recovery, Open Court program, Marxist criticism, K-W-L strategy.

    b. Other names are generic or merely descriptive and should not be rendered in title case. Examples include reading readiness, reader-response method, guided reading, interactive model of reading.

Compounds beginning with the prefix sub- are almost always closed (CMS 6.1):
subgrant, subset, subskill, subtest, subtotal, subvocalization
exception: sub-Saharan

In text or reference lists, use a colon to separate a subtitle from a title. Exception: When a title or subtitle ends with a question mark or an exclamation point, no other punctuation follows (CMS 6.123, 17.61). Example:

    Glen, P. (1990). It's not my department! How to get the service you want, exactly the way you want it! New York: William Morrow.

such as
The phrase such as introduces an example or, more commonly, a list of selected examples.
1. Do not use such as to introduce an inclusive list (see include).

2. Do not insert a comma (or any other punctuation) between such as and the example or examples it introduces (see colon, item #2).

Compounds beginning with the prefix super- are almost always closed (CMS 6.1):
superheated, superhighway, supernatural, superordinate

sure-fire (adj. preceding its noun)
Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) (capped as formal name of a specific program; otherwise, lowercase)

symposia / symposiums
Both RH and WNWD prefer symposiums but allow symposia. Authors or editors who use the nonpreferred symposia must be consistent throughout the work and should note this usage on a style sheet accompanying the project.


Table 2 (as title, with numeral)
a table, the tables (generic)
the Table (if there is only one in the book, article, or chapter)
tape record (verb)
tape recorder
tape recording
TC = Thinking Classroom
TC/P = Thinking Classroom/Peremena
TCP/IP = Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol
teacher researcher (no hyphen)
teacher’s aide

telephone numbers
1. IRA style calls for the use of hyphens, rather than parentheses, slashes, periods, or commas, to set off the area code: 302-731-1600, ext. 319

2. IRA’s 800 number works only in the United States and Canada; for items that will reach an overseas audience as well, be sure to include an alternate (302) number.

3. Do not include the code 011 when listing international telephone numbers. Use of the plus sign (+) before international telephone numbers is encouraged as a reminder to the reader that a country code will be required for that call. No blank space appears between plus sign and number (+67, not + 67).

4. The IRA standard abbreviation of telephone is tel., not phone.

5. When the words e-mail, tel., or fax are included in an address or contact line, they should not be followed by a colon. Thus, 800 Barksdale Rd., Newark, DE 19714-8139; tel. 302-731-1600, ext. 292; fax 302-368-2449; e-mail (not tel.:, fax:, or e-mail:)

television / TV
Use the full spelling wherever possible.

TESOL = subject (teaching of English to speakers of other languages), or group (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages)

1. Titles of tests follow standard rules of capitalization of titles but are not underlined or italicized.

2. Except for noting year or edition, IRA authors and editors should not cite tests in the text of a book or article nor list them in the reference list.

test-taking (hyphenate as adj. preceding its noun, as in the phrase test-taking strategies)
text-based (hyphenate as adj. preceding noun; otherwise open)
thank-you (hyphenate as adj. preceding noun; otherwise open compound, no hyphen)
that / which (see which / that)
think aloud (verb)
think-aloud (noun or adj.)

Third World
The term “Third World” has fallen out of favor and should be avoided in most contexts. Use “developing countries” instead.

tie-in (adj., noun)

time, duration
1. Noun and adverb forms are not hyphenated: The test lasted 20 minutes.

2. Adjective forms preceding the noun are hyphenated: We administered a 20-minute test.

timeline (not time line)

time of day
1. When using the indicators a.m. and p.m., note that periods are required (with no space after the first period) and that letters should appear in lowercase or in small capitals, not in regular capitals.

2. When using numerals with a.m. and p.m., use full form (i.e., 8:00 a.m., not 8 a.m.).

3. Beware of redundancy: Say, "tomorrow at 8:00 a.m.," or "tomorrow morning at 8:00," rather than the redundant "tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m."

Title I (note Roman numeral)

title case
This term refers to a style of capitalization that is applied to the titles of works. For a description of IRA's title case, see the entry that follows.

titles of works: capitalization
1. Capitalize the first word. Also capitalize the first word after a colon, including those words listed in point 3.

2. Capitalize all nouns, pronouns, verbs, and adverbs. Capitalize all adjectives, conjunctions, and prepositions except those listed in point 3.

3. Except as first word or first after a colon (see point 1, above), lowercase all articles (a, an, the), all coordinating conjunctions (and, or, but), and all prepositions of three letters or fewer. In keeping with APA style, prepositions of four letters or more should be capitalized (with, from, into, over, etc.). See APA 3.13, p. 75.

titles of works: punctuation
1. Titles of most* complete works are printed in italics but with no quotation marks: Books,
journals, monographs or studies, brochures, magazines, newspapers, movies, long musical compositions (album, compact disc, symphony, opera), paintings, sculptures, television series. Examples: The Reading Teacher; Pen in Hand: Children Become Writers; Reading Today. Acronyms of works whose titles are italicized should themselves be italicized (e.g., RT, JAAL, TMPR).

*Exceptions are titles of tests (e.g., Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children), software (Microsoft Word), and book series (e.g., the IRA-NRC Literacy Studies Series), which follow standard rules for capitalization of titles but are not italicized.

2. Titles of most* works that are normally published as part of a larger work should be printed with quotation marks but no italics: stories, essays, articles, poems, songs, episodes, chapters, papers, conference presentations. Examples: Twain's “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,”“The Raven,” by Edgar Allan Poe, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “A Qualitative Examination of Distractors in an Urban Sixth-Grade Classroom.”

* Titles of fairy tales, myths, and other generic short works (i.e., those that exist in many different versions or renditions) are exceptions, unless a specific edition or translation is being cited: Little Red Riding Hood, the Three Little Pigs, the Labors of Hercules, the Gilgamesh Epic, Genesis, the Nativity.

3. In text or reference lists, use a colon to separate a subtitle from a title. Exception: When a title or subtitle ends with a question mark or an exclamation point, no other punctuation follows (CMS 6.123, 17.61). Example:

    Glen, P. (1990). It's not my department! How to get the service you want, exactly the way you want it! New York: William Morrow.

titles and short titles of works: distinguishing topics from titles
In some cases the topic covered by a book may closely resemble the book's title (or short title). In these cases the author should use capital letters and italics when referring to the book and lowercase with no italics when referring to the topic.


  • The Association has participated actively in the movement to establish standards for the English language arts in U.S. schools. One tangible result of this effort was publication of Standards for the English Language Arts.

  • In the months since its first release, Standards has proved invaluable for school administrators and policymakers. . . . (book)

  • In the months since their first release, the IRA standards have proved invaluable for school administrators and policymakers. . . . (the standards themselves)


toward / towards
There is no semantic difference between toward and towards, which are variant spellings of the same word. Although towards seems to dominate in the UK and Commonwealth, toward is the prevailing form in the U.S. and the preferred spelling in our dictionaries. IRA standard is toward. (See spelling.)

trade book
RH (1996) and WNWD (2001) both list this compound as two words. The closed form, tradebook, should be considered nonstandard.

trademarks / trade names
1. Capitalize trade names whenever they appear. According to CMS 7.125, “The symbols ® and ™ . . . need not appear.”

2. Do not use trade names as common terms: refer to “a tissue” instead of “a kleenex” and “to photocopy” rather than “to xerox.”

trial and error (noun)
trial-and-error (adj. preceding noun)
t test (as noun)
t-test results (adj. preceding noun)
turn around (verb)
turn-around (adjective)
turnaround (noun)

TV: Use “television” instead.

twofold (adjective)


UKRA = United Kingdom Reading Association
underway (WNWD prefers closed form)
UNESCO = United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (
UNICEF = United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund

unique, more or less, very, or somewhat
The literal meaning of unique is “one of a kind”; therefore, it makes little sense to describe one thing as “more unique” than another, or “most unique” among a group of things. Likewise, any attempt to enhance or strengthen the uniqueness of an object (“very unique”) will be redundant (see absolute adjectives).

Capitalize only as part of the name of an institution: the Ohio State University, the University of Southern California. Otherwise lowercase: a university, the university

uppercase (noun or adjective; rarely, a verb)
upper class
up-to-date (adj. preceding noun)

URL = Uniform Resource Locator (plural=URLs)

URLs, style
1. Effective July 1, 2007, IRA books and journals will no longer include "http://" when URLs appear in text or reference lists.

2. Editors of other IRA documents may choose to include "http://" in URLs or to exclude it, but they should follow a consistent pattern in doing so (e.g., leave out the "http://" for URLs that begin with "www," but include it for those that do not).

3. URLs that appear in print should not be underscored.

US / U.S., USA / U.S.A.
1. Chicago Manual of Style (Chap. 14.19) allows use of U.S. as a noun in tabular or tightly-set material (otherwise, spell out United States). CMS 14.20 allows U.S. as an adjective in all but the most formal texts.

2. The abbreviation US (without periods) is used before a dollar sign to indicate U.S. currency. Thus, “The subscription price of the new publication is US$72.50 per year.”

3. The abbreviation USA (without periods) is used in addresses, where it follows zip code and comma: “Newark, DE 19714-8139, USA”

user group
USSR = uninterrupted sustained silent reading

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