General Notes on Style

Capitalizing Headlines
Quotation Marks
Punctuating Lists
Digital Terms
Foreign Terms or Expressions

Chicago always prefers minimal capitalization for readability, which is why industries, fields, titles, etc. are lowercased, as well as the words center, program, foundation, etc., when not citing the formal name ("the Bernstein Center's leadership", versus "the center's leadership"). Our CBS style guide makes an exception only for Business School and the School when referring to CBS, and University when referring to Columbia.

Capitalizing Headlines

In headlines, follow Chicago Manual of Style with one exception. While Chicago says all prepositions in headlines should be set in lowercase regardless of length, Columbia Business School capitalizes prepositions in headlines if the preposition is at least four letters: 

  • How to Have Meaningful Relationships With Friends and Family—Note that CBS style says to capitalize “with”
  • How to Graduate From Business School in Two Years—Note that CBS style calls for capitalizing “From.”


In a series of three or more items joined by and, use a serial comma, also known as an Oxford comma, before and:

  • The School offers MBA, PhD, and certificate programs.

Quotation Marks

Commas and periods go inside quotation marks; colons and semicolons go outside.

Question marks and exclamation points go either inside or outside, depending on the meaning:

  • She asked, “Why must you act so indifferent?”
  • Why did he reply, “This is inconceivable”?
  • When a word is being used with its standard meaning, do not put it in quotation marks. For a technical term that may not be familiar to readers, italics may be used for the first mention, but roman should be used for subsequent mentions.
  • When a word in quotation marks falls at the end of a phrase, clause or sentence, place the terminal punctuation mark inside the quotation mark if the former is comma, period, question mark or exclamation point; place a semicolon or colon outside the quotation mark.

Punctuating Lists

The Chicago Manual of Style provides an exhaustive discussion of punctuating lists both within sentences and presented as bulleted lists, but here are a few guidelines.

A simple list in running text (an in-line list) is separated by commas (remember to use the serial comma.)

  • The course is held on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

Semi-colons are used to separate more complex lists, particularly when list items include commas.

  • She has served as the chief financial officer of Pitney-Bowes; the head of the Decision, Risk, and Operations Division at Columbia Business School; and, most recently, on the Board of Overseers.

There are many ways to treat punctuation in bulleted lists. CBS style recommends using minimal punctuation, consistent with Chicago.

Aristotle’s Rhetoric emphasized three components of effective communication:

  • Logos
  • Ethos
  • Pathos

Above all, Chicago prefers consistency—if a bulleted list begins with punctuation, use it all the way through!

Our recommendation is to:

  • develop a strategy for implementation;
  • evaluate the necessary resources; and
  • determine a feasible timeline.

Digital Terms

  • a dot com company
  • email (a departure from earlier styles, which called for e-mail)
  • newsletter, not e-newsletter or enewsletter
  • internet
  • website
  • homepage
  • log in as a verb (“Please log in here”)—but login as a noun (“Forgot your login or password?”)
  • World Wide Web, the web

Foreign Terms or Expressions

Foreign terms or expressions that are not commonly used in English should be set in italics:

Well-stocked supermarkets and department stores — called dollar stores or diplotiendas — overflow with people trying to buy US goods.

The grève du zèle is not a true strike but a nitpicking obeying of work rules.