2017 Back-to-School Topical Guide

The Associated Press has compiled a style guide of essential words, phrases and definitions related to the return to classes. Terms are from the AP Stylebook, usage in AP stories and Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fifth Edition.


But single-letter grades get apostrophes: an A, two B's and three C's.

back-to-school (adj.)

He bought back-to-school supplies. But she went back to school.

book titles

Capitalize and enclose in quotes the names of books, poems, plays, films and songs. Capitalize without quotes books that are primarily references, such as dictionaries, encyclopedias and almanacs.

bus, buses

The vehicles carrying kids to and from school. Not busses, which are kisses.


Common Core educational standards

Or Common Core learning standards, Common Core curriculum standards.


Capitalize proper noun elements or numbered courses: American history, English, Algebra 1, world history

dean's list

Lowercase in all uses: He is on the dean's list. She is a dean's list student.

dropout (n.), drop out (v.)

enroll, enrolled, enrolling


Titles of special events, such as school fundraisers, are capitalized and enclosed in quotes.


Acceptable in all references for grade-point average.

grade, grader

first grader, seventh grader, 10th grader; but hyphenate first-grade student, 11th-grade classes.

graduate (v.)

Graduate is correctly used in the active voice: She graduated from high school. It is correct, but unnecessary, to use the passive voice: He was graduated from high school. Do not, however, drop from: John Adams graduated from Harvard. Not: John Adams graduated Harvard.

half day, half-day (adj.)

Friday is a half day of school. The half-day tests were challenging.

high school

No hyphen in high school student, high school teacher, etc.

home schooling (n.) home-schooler (n.) home-school (v.) home-schooled (adj.)


Absence from school without a legitimate excuse is playing hooky.

home schooling (n.), home-schooler (n.), home-school (v.), home-schooled (adj.)


The years of schooling from kindergarten through 12th grade graduation.

kindergarten, kindergartners

But pre-K, K-12.

lectern, podium, rostrum

A speaker stands behind a lectern, on a podium or rostrum.


Acceptable in all references for Parent Teacher Association

public schools

Use a figure and capitalize when numbered: Public School 3. If a school has a commemorative name, capitalize it: Benjamin Franklin School.

room numbers

Use figures and capitalize room when used with a figure: Room 2, Room 211.


Elementary school, middle school, but preschool is one word.

school-age (adj.)

They have three school-age children.

schoolboy, schoolgirl

One word for each.

school day

Two words for any day that school is in session.

school year

The 2017-18 school year begins soon.


One word.


One word for schoolteacher; others are three words without hyphens: grade school teacher, high school teacher

teen, teenager

three R's

They are: reading, 'riting, 'rithmatic



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