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WisDOT style guide for print products and web pages

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This style guide is for the benefit of WisDOT employees and contractors who need to prepare department information for publication either in print or on the web. The purpose is to give the department's public information products a consistent, uniform look and style. It is not intended for use with technical materials. If you have a question that this style guide doesn't answer, first check your dictionary and then contact OPA staff at (608) 266-3581. Please note that in some cases, rules for web documents differ from those for print documents.

With this edition of the style guide we have reorganized the contents into several categories: abbreviations, capitalization, numbers, punctuation, and spelling and word usage. In addition, at the end of the guide you will find an alphabetical list, with definitions, of over 130 pairs of "words often confused," such as affect and effect, biannual and biennial, and capital and capitol.


Spelling/Word Usage
Words Often Confused


Avoid. But you can abbreviate:

  • Titles before a full name outside direct quotations: Lt. Gov., Ms.
  • Co., Corp. after the name of a corporate entity, Jr., Sr. after a person's name.
  • A.D., B.C., a.m., p.m. (only when used with figures).
  • States in certain cases. See state names.
  • Organizations and government agencies that are widely recognized by their initials: GOP, CIA, FBI.


Spell out words unless:

  • The phrase forms an acronym that is well known to all of the document's readers.
  • It is an extremely long set of words that needs to be repeated many times.
  • The term is better known by its acronym than by its spelled out words (PGA, IRS, FBI).

In the case of a long acronym, an alternative for second and later references is to use a generic noun rather than the acronym. For example, after spelling out the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials, some of the following references might call it, "the organization," or "the association," rather than AASHTO.


  • Spell the state when you only give city and state: She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
  • You may abbreviate the state with the full address: 4802 Sheboygan Ave., Madison, WI
  • Spell the street when you aren't stating an address: He lives on Sunny Street.
  • You may abbreviate the street when giving the address: he lives at 1901 Sunny St.
  • Abbreviate Ave. Blvd., St. only with a numbered address.
  • Use P.O. Box.


Use this acronym (American travel by track) in all references to the National Railroad Passenger Corp. Do not use all caps (AMTRAK).


Always spell out the word in text (rather than using the ampersand symbol "&"), unless the symbol is specifically part of a name (Madison Gas & Electric). It may be used in tables if space is limited.

college degrees

Use lower case when spelling out degrees; upper case when abbreviating: bachelor of arts, master's degree. Abbreviate only after a full name, set off by commas: Bill Jones, Ph.D., M.A., B.A.

Do not capitalize college degrees used as general terms of classification. However, capitalize a degree used after a person's name.

company, companies

Abbreviate Co. or Cos. when a firm uses it at the end of its name. Spell out and lowercase company or companies whenever they stand alone.


Abbreviate corporation as Corp. when a company or government agency uses the word at the end of its name. Spell out and lowercase corporation whenever it stands alone.


U.S. DOT, WisDOT, or Wisconsin DOT (not WIDOT or WDOT)

DOT divisions/offices

Spell at least on first reference divisions and offices in the department. Abbreviate on subsequent references:

DBM Division of Business Management
DMV Division of Motor Vehicles
DSP Division of State Patrol
DTIM Division of Transportation Investment Management
DTSD Division of Transportation System Development
OGC Office of General Council
OPA Office of Public Affairs
OPBF Office of Policy, Budget and Finance


Abbreviate and capitalize as Inc. when used as part of a corporate name. It usually is not needed, but when it is used, do not set off with commas: J.C. Penny Co. Inc. announced ... See company names.


  • You may abbreviate these months — Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec. — when used with dates: Oct. 31, 2009.
  • Don't abbreviate: March April, May, June, or July, unless you have a chart or table where space is limited (Mar., Apr., May, Jun, Jul.)
  • Always spell out the month when it is only month and year: January 2005 (no comma).

organization name

Do not follow an organization's full name with an acronym or abbreviation. If the acronym would not be clear on second reference, do not use it. Names not commonly before the public should not be reduced to acronyms solely to save a few words.

radio-TV stations

It's OK to use just the call letters: radio station WIBA-FM, television station WISC. "TV" is acceptable as an adjective or in such cases as cable TV, but generally spell out television when used in text.

state names

Spell out the names of the 50 U.S. states when they stand alone in text. The names of eight states are never abbreviated: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah. Wisconsin can be abbreviated as Wis. to fit in a table or tabular material. Be consistent within documents. The two-letter abbreviations (WI) should be used in mailing addresses.


Main Street; 609 Main St., Main and Locust streets.


Spell out the name when it stands alone in text. It may be abbreviated as Wis. to fit in a table or tabular material. WI should only be used in mailing addresses.

Wisconsin Department of Transportation

Spell out Wisconsin Department of Transportation or state Department of Transportation in the first reference. Use WisDOT, Wisconsin DOT or the department in second and subsequent references. In most cases, do not precede WisDOT with "the." (For example, do not write "The WisDOT announced today that..." But it is correct to write, "The WisDOT policy on viewing media web sites has changed.")

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WisDOT uses a 'down' style. If the word isn't at the beginning of a sentence, or it isn't a proper name, it shouldn't be capitalized. When in doubt, use lower case. Additional information follows.


Capitalize the word "airport" only as part of a proper name: General Mitchell International Airport. The first name of an individual and the word international can be deleted from the formal airport name while the remainder is capitalized: Mitchell Airport. Always identify the location of the community: Dane County Regional Airport, Madison.

Assembly and Senate

Capitalize when part of a proper name and if the state name is dropped but the reference is specific.

  • The Wisconsin Assembly
  • The state Senate

board of directors

Always lowercase. The WisDOT board of directors.


Capitalize principal words including the first "A" or "The" if it is the first or last word in the title.


Capitalize the word bridge when part of a proper name: Lloyd Spriggle Memorial Bridge. Lowercase when describing the location: the bridge over the Mississippi River, or the Prairie du Chien bridge (when used to designate a location).


When used generically, do not capitalize. But when it is part of a name, capitalize: Verona Bypass.


Capitalize city if part of a proper name, an integral part of an official name, or a regularly used nickname: Kansas City, New York City, Windy City. Lowercase elsewhere: a Wisconsin city; the city government; and all "city of" phrases: the city of Appleton.

City Council

Capitalize when part of a proper name: the Madison City Council. Retain capitalization if the reference is to a specific council but the context does not require the city name: Madison (AP) – The City Council . . . Lowercase in other uses: the council, the Superior and Green Bay city councils.

college and high school classes

Do not capitalize: freshman; sophomore; junior; senior. But Class of '96; John Smith, '72.


Capitalize Congress when referring to both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, not just one house. Use figures and capitalize district when naming a specific district: the 2nd Congressional District.


Capitalize only when part of a proper name: Bayfield County; but Bayfield and Dane counties; the county.


Capitalize when it is part of a proper name. Lower case whenever it stands alone. Do not abbreviate in any usage. A phrase such as "the department" is preferable on second reference.

directions and regions

Generally lower case north, south, etc., when they indicate compass direction; capitalize when they designate region or are part of a proper name. He drove north. Rail would serve southeastern Wisconsin; Midwest; Northern accent; northern France but South Korea.

draft environmental impact statements (DEIS)

Use lowercase for the term, but use capital letters for the acronym. The same would apply to environmental impact statement (EIS) and other long terms that are used repeatedly. (Shorter terms, such as environmental assessment and needs assessment, should always be spelled out.)

dotnet, not DOTNET

elected officials

U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Milwaukee), U.S. Rep. or Rep. Baldwin (D-Madison); State Rep. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls).


Capitalize only at the beginning of a sentence; no hyphen.


Never capitalize. This is a company or agency web site made available to external customers or organizations for electronic commerce. A password may be required to gain access to the more sensitive information.

fiscal year

Don't capitalize. Use FY 09-10 in second reference.

General Fund

This is the name of a fund so it is capitalized.

General Transportation Aids (GTA)

This is the name of a program.

geographical and infrastructure names

Rock River, Great River Road, Fox Lake, Lake Michigan, Bong Bridge, Badger Interchange, Marquette Interchange.

When a generic term is used in the plural following more than one name, it is lowercased:

  • Between the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers
  • At the intersection of Mineral Point and Segoe roads
  • Dane and Sauk counties

When a generic term precedes more than one name, it is usually capitalized:

  • Lakes Superior and Michigan

governmental units

Capitalize the full proper name of governmental agencies, departments and offices: Alcohol-Drug Review Unit; Bureau of Driver Services; Bureau of Transportation Safety. The U.S. Department of Transportation for first reference; U.S. DOT on second reference.


Governor Scott Walker, not Gov. Walker; the Governor; the Governor's office.


Capitalize them: Christmas Day, New Year's Eve. The legal holidays in state law are: New Year's, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day ( or Fourth of July), Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.


Always capitalize these words. However, write dotnet, not DOTNET.


Do not capitalize.


Capitalize when preceded by the name of the state. Lowercase when used generically and for all plural references.

  • The Wisconsin Legislature
  • Both houses of the legislature
  • No legislature has approved the amendment
  • The Wisconsin and Illinois legislatures

legislative titles

Use Rep., Reps., Sen. and Sens. as formal titles before one or more names in regular text. Spell out and capitalize these titles before one or more names in a direct quotation. Spell out and lowercase representative and senator when the follow a name, and in other uses. Spell out other legislative titles in all uses. Capitalize formal titles such as assemblyman, assemblywoman, city councilor, delegate, etc., when they are used before a name. Lowercase when they follow a name, and in other uses. Add U.S. or state before a title only if necessary to avoid confusion: U.S. Sen. Russell Feingold spoke with state Sen. Fred Risser.


Capitalize: Green Bay rest area; but Travel Information Center at Hudson.

Major Highways Program

This is the name of a program and should be capitalized when it is used as such. Do not refer to major highways as "majors," but rather identify specific highway names and numbers.

nationalities and races

Capitalize nationalities, peoples, races, tribes, etc. Native American, African American, Caucasian, Chinese; but black, white, tribe and tribal.

political parties-historical documents

Capitalize both the name of the party and the word party if it is customarily used as part of the organization's proper name: the Democratic Party, the Republican Party. Capitalize Communist, Conservative, Democrat, Liberal, Republican, Socialist, etc., when they refer to a specific party or its members. Lowercase these words when they refer to political philosophy.

program names

Capitalize: General Transportation Aids, Transportation Fund, General Fund.

public bodies

Federal Highway Administration; Transportation Projects Commission; Assembly Highways Committee; but the committee, council, circuit court.


  • Regions within WisDOT:
    • Use North Central, Northeast, Northwest, Southeast and Southwest.
    • Abbreviate regions as: NC Region, NE Region, NW Region, SE Region, SW Region (all caps for the directional references).
    • Capitalize region when used as a name-proper noun: Southeast Region or SE Region.
    • When used as an adjective, the reference is the regional office rather than the region office.
    • When listing regions, list in alphabetical order NC, NE, NW, SE, SW.
    • When referring to a regional office: the Southwest Region, Madison office.
    • For the Hill Farms office, use Central Office, Madison.


lower case except in reference to a specific rideshare program


Capitalize names of schools, colleges and universities, but not departments or courses unless proper nouns-adjectives: College of Agriculture, Law School, history department, but department of French.


Do not capitalize seasons: spring, summer, fall, autumn, winter.


Always capitalize when referring to the head of a state or federal department (such as WisDOT or US DOT). (This is a style peculiarity of Wisconsin government.)


Capitalize only when it is part of a proper name: the State of Wisconsin; state legislature, but Wisconsin Legislature.

State Patrol

Capitalize State Patrol, Wisconsin State Patrol, but do not capitalize the patrol. (After the first reference, lower case common nouns that are an integral part of the full name of a person, place or thing.)

time zone

Capitalize and spell out: Eastern Standard Time, Central Standard Time, Daylight Savings Time, etc.

titles (things)

Capitalize principal words in books, plays, lectures, pictures, etc., including first "A" or "The" if it is the first or last word in the title.

titles (persons)

In general, confine capitalization to formal titles used directly before an individual's name.

  • President Barack Obama
  • Senator Herb Kohl

In general, do not capitalize a formal title when it appears after a name. However for very high officials, when you are referring to a specific person, capitalize the title:

  • Barack Obama, President of the United States; the President
  • The Secretary of State just entered the room.
  • Herb Kohl, senator from Wisconsin; the senator

It may be appropriate to capitalize all titles on certain documents (agendas, certificates, etc.). Be consistent throughout the document.

Lowercase and spell out titles when they are not used with an individual's name: The president issued a statement.

Lowercase and spell out titles in constructions that set them off from a name by commas: The vice president, Nelson Rockefeller, declined to run again.

A formal title generally is one that denotes a scope of authority, professional activity or academic activity. Capitalize formal titles when they are used immediately before one or more names: Pope Paul, President Washington.


town of Burke; village of Barneveld; city of Madison. Use just the town, village or city name (Burke, Barneveld, Madison), unless there is a chance it may be confused with another municipality.

Transportation Fund

This is a proper name.

web, web page, web site

Do not capitalize

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Use numerals for 10 and above. If a sentence contains several numbers, use all numerals in the sentence.


Use figures and spell out the measurement. She is 5 feet 9 inches tall. When used as an adjective, hyphenate: the 10-mile bypass.

Use only numbers for all percents, dimensions, prices, temperatures, etc.: 4 by 5 feet, 7 degrees, 4-lane, $5, 5 cents, 12 cents, $2.50. Be consistent throughout document.

Political divisions

1st District, 10th Ward, 3rd Precinct (political divisions)

Phone numbers

(608) xxx-xxxx or 1-800-xxx-xxxx or (608) xxx-xxxx, ext. 364.

Use the term toll-free before any toll-free number except 800 so readers know it is a toll-free number: "Call toll-free 888-368-9556 anytime to make a road test appointment."


2-lane, 4-lane, etc.


Round a number up if it is 5 or more, and down if it is less than 5: $2.6 million, not $2,594,697.40.


Spell out numbers when they start a sentence.


Use figures except for noon and midnight. 8:30 a.m., 9 p.m., (not 9:00 p.m.). Avoid redundancies such as: 10 a.m. this morning. Use 10 a.m. today. 4 o'clock is acceptable but 4 p.m. is preferred. Put the time after the verb in a sentence. The Governor announced today...


Use when the toll-free number is anything but 800 so readers know it is a toll-free number.

  • Call toll-free 888-368-9556 anytime to make a road test appointment.


Early '60s, not 60's; 1980s (Don't use an apostrophe when making figures plural). Do not start sentences with a year. Always include the year on first reference of a date in a document.

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  • Use an apostrophe when creating a contraction (indicates omission of letters): don't (do not), couldn't (could not), it's (it is).
  • Use an apostrophe to indicate possessive case of nouns: the dog's toy; the car's horn.
  • Use an apostrophe to indicate omission of figures: the '90s; class of '97.

When you make a noun or number plural by adding "s," don't use an apostrophe: 1990s.

bullet points

  • Always use parallel construction.
  • In most cases, it is best to capitalize the first letter of the first word in each bullet.
  • Only use periods when bulleted items form complete sentences.


Use a colon to signal to the reader that a series or a list will follow.

  • The use of punctuation marks often confuses students: comma, semicolon, colon, hyphen and dash.

Use a colon to separate an explanation, rule or example from a preceding independent clause.

  • The Marquette Interchange is not just another highway project: it is the largest infrastructure project in the history of Wisconsin.
  • Use a colon to introduce a long quotation.
  • The governor noted: "Transportation touches every Wisconsinite every day. Whether going to work school, or recreational activities, the citizens of this state use our products and services all the time."

Only capitalize the first word after a colon if it is a proper noun or the start of a complete sentence.


As with all punctuation, use a comma when not using it could cause confusion or misunderstanding. Don't use it if you don't need it.

Use commas to separate elements in a series, but do not put a comma before the conjunction (and, or) in a simple series:

  • You can get there by car, bus or train.
  • LED traffic lights now come in red, yellow and green.

However, if one element of the series has a conjunction in it, put a comma before the last element:

  • I had orange juice, toast, and ham and eggs for breakfast.
  • Project funds covered resurfacing pavement, replacing curb and gutter, and adding new guardrail.

When a conjunction such as and, but or for links two clauses that could stand alone as separate sentences, use a comma before the conjunction, in most cases.

  • Young people often drive too fast, and sometimes they don’t wear their seat belts.

Use a comma to separate an introductory clause or phrase from the main clause:

  • By retirement age, many people who haven't ridden for years take up the bicycle again.

If the information in a parenthetical phrase relates closely to the sentence, enclose it in commas.

  • The most scenic way to cross the country, if you have the time, is to travel by train.

Use a comma to introduce a complete one-sentence quotation within a paragraph.

  • The officer said, “Stay with your vehicle; a tow truck will be along shortly.”

Use a comma to set off a transitional word or expression.

  • On the contrary, a driver's license does not guarantee good driving behavior.
  • The more driving you do, however, the easier it will be to react intuitively in difficult situations.

A comma should follow yes, no, why, well, etc., when one of these words begins a sentence.

  • No, they didn’t close the Sun Prairie exit after the semi-trailer overturned.

Hyphens are primarily used to connect words, whereas dashes are most often used to set words — or phrases — apart. Here are some rules for when to use hyphens:

In compound numbers between twenty-one and ninety-nine and when used in larger numbers, such as three hundred forty-six. Ordinal numbers, such as twenty-fifth and sixty-third need hyphens, too.

In compound adjectives in which the last word is capitalized, such as un-American, mid-Atlantic.

To join a word to a past participle to create a single adjective preceding the noun it modifies.

  • We held the program kick-off event last Friday.
  • This is a government-funded program.

But do not hyphenate the same phrase when it follows the noun.

  • When do they plan to kick off the program?
  • The program is government funded.

In a compound adjective that is a fraction

  • The bill passed with a two-thirds majority.

But fractions treated as nouns are not hyphenated.

  • I ate two thirds of my sandwich.

With compounds beginning with the prefix self and all, such as self-confident and all-knowing.

In compounds made up of two or more words used as an adjective before a noun

  • He made a last-minute decision.

But do not use a hyphen when one of the words is an adverb ending in “-ly.”

  • We saw an amazingly good movie.

With ages, when they are adjective phrases involving a unit of measurement.

  • My ten-year-old car broke down.

But do not use a hyphen when the phrase comes after the noun.

  • My car is ten years old.

In phrases composed of a noun and a present participle (“-ing” word).

  • The heat-seeking missile found its target.

mid- No hyphen unless a capitalized word follows: mid-April, mid-Atlantic, midterm, midsemester. Use a hyphen when mid- precedes a figure: mid-30s

multi. The rules in prefixes apply but in general, use no hyphen: multimodal, multilateral, multimillion, multicolored.

right of way; rights of way; right of ways
Do not hyphenate.

quotation marks

Use quotes at the beginning of each paragraph of a continuous quote of several paragraphs, but at the end of the last paragraph only.

Titles of shorter works should be enclosed in double quotation marks. This particularly applies to works that exist as a smaller part of a larger work. (Italics are generally used for titles of longer works; see below.) Examples of titles that are quoted:

  • Articles, essays or papers
  • Chapters of a longer work
  • Entries in a longer work (dictionary, encyclopedia, etc.)
  • Short films and documentaries
  • Single episodes of a television series
  • Short poems
  • Short stories
  • Songs and singles

Quote a word being introduced to readers the first time, but not in subsequent references.

Don’t quote names of newspapers or periodicals: the Wisconsin State Journal.

Don’t quote characters in plays.

Don’t quote names of automobiles, horses, dogs, vessels, etc.

Use single quotes for quotations within quotations and in headlines. "I know the public will 'rage' at the design."

The period and the comma always go within the quotation marks.


Italic type is generally used for the following: certain scientific names, court cases, named vehicles, books, comic strips, computer and video games (but not other software), feature-length films and documentaries, long or epic poems, television series and serials, music albums, musicals, operas, orchestral works, paintings (and other works of visual art), periodicals (journals and magazines), plays.


Use a semicolon between independent clauses to indicate separation stronger than a comma, but less than a period.

  • The Marquette Interchange project was on time and under budget; it is our showcase project.

Use a semicolon to separate clauses joined by such transitional words as hence, moreover, however, also, therefore, and consequently. Follow these words with a comma.

  • The rains were extraordinary; however, the road did not wash away.

Use a semicolon to separate lengthy statements following a colon, and when commas are used within these clauses or phrases.

  • Division and office meetings with the executive assistant took place on specific days: DMV, DTIM and DTSD on Mondays; DSP and DBM on Tuesdays; and OPA, OPBF and OGC on Wednesdays.

Use a semicolon to precede "for example," "namely," "for instance," "i.e.," and others when they introduce a list of examples that you don’t feel belong in parentheses. Follow these words with a comma.

  • Many factors are considered before a highway is built; for instance, available funding, environmental assessment and community needs.

spacing after period

Use two spaces after a period at the end of a sentence. When writing for the Web, use only one space after period.


When quoting shorter statutory material, just put it in quotation marks and identify the statute in the following sentence:

The law requires the Department of Transportation to, "maintain its principal office at Madison and district offices at such other cities, villages and towns as the necessities of the work demand." Section 84.30, Wis. Stats.

When quoting longer statutory material, a colon should follow introductory material with the quoted materials set in an indented block of text, without quotation marks:

Example: The law generally requires the Department to keep bidder information confidential, except as provided in s. 84.01 (32)(b), Wis. Stats.: 84.01 (32)(b) This subsection does not prohibit the department from disclosing information to any of the following persons:

  1. The person to whom the information relates.
  2. Any person who has the written consent of the person to whom the information relates to receive such information.
  3. Any person to whom 49 CFR 26, as that section existed on October 1, 1999, requires or specifically authorizes the department to disclose such information.

The Department's duty to advise local authorities is clear:
The department shall advise towns, villages, cities and counties with regard to the construction and maintenance of any highway or bridge, when requested. On the request of any town, village, city or county board, or county highway committee, any supervision or engineering work necessary in connection with highway improvements by any town, village, city or county may be performed by the department and charged at cost to such town, village, city or county. Section 84.01(5), Wis. Stats.

If you are simply citing to statutory authority, without quoting any material:
Billboards cannot be erected adjacent to state trunk highways without a permit. Section 84.30, Wis. Stats.


When authoring for the Web, only hyperlinked words should be underlined. Italicizing words is the preferred alternative. Books, magazines, periodicals and newspapers should be italicized.

Web addresses

In addresses, use, not http://www.

Spelling-Word Usage

a, an

Use a before consonant sounds: a historic event, a one-year term (sounds like it begins with a "w".) Use an before vowel sounds: an energy crisis, an honorable man (silent h).


When a motor vehicle makes contact with something with force, such as another vehicle or a tree, it is a crash, not an accident.


Use the word. Avoid use of the ampersand symbol.

adopt, approve, enact, pass

Amendments, ordinances, resolutions and rules are adopted or approved. Bills are passed. Laws are enacted.

adviser or advisor

Both spellings are acceptable, but be consistent within each document.

afterward or afterwards

Both spellings are acceptable, but be consistent within each document.

all time, all-time

An all-time high, but the greatest administrator of all time.

alright / all right

Alright is not a word; it's a common misspelling of all right, which means all correct. Some people prefer yes, acceptable, or satisfactory instead of all right.

alot / a lot / allot

Alot is not a word; it is a common misspelling of a lot. A lot is colloquial and vague; choose a more precise word, when possible. Allot (verb) means to assign a share, to allocate.


Do not refer to an event as annual until it has been held in at least two successive years. Don't use first annual, but sponsors plan to hold the fair annually. Never capitalize annual meeting.

anybody, any body, anyone, any one

Use anybody or anyone for an indefinite reference: Anybody could do that. Use any body or any one when you single out one element of a group: Any one of them could speak up.


Because bimonthly can mean every two months or twice a month, and biweekly can mean every two weeks or twice a week, these are confusing word. Semi- only means twice, so avoid confusion by writing semimonthly or semiweekly; or write twice a week or month.

brochure copy

Include either Wisconsin Department of Transportation or the triskelion logo in all publications. You don't need both. Also include in small size print an item/publication number or initial and a version/revision date (WB-O0), and "Printed on recycled paper." Every publication should also include information on how to contact WisDOT on the subject: WisDOT, address, email address, Web site address, phone, fax, TTY and/or a contact phone number.

bus, buses

bus, buses, bused, busing. It is acceptable to double the "s" in these words, but be consistent within a document.

cancel, canceled, canceling, cancellation

car pool, carpool

Both spellings are acceptable, but be consistent within each document.

carryover (noun and adjective); carry over (verb)


The powder mixed with water and sand or gravel to make concrete. Use concrete (not cement) pavement, blocks, driveways, etc.


The first century (under 10), the 21st century (numerals 10 and over). Century is not capitalized.

clean up (verb); cleanup (noun and adjective)


See cement.

control, controlled, controlling

copy for publications

Include either Wisconsin Department of Transportation or the triskelion in all publications. You don't need both. Also include in small size print an item/publication number or initial and the current year, date: SWG-1/01 (Stylebook (and) Writing Guide-October 2004) Every publication should also include information on how to contact WisDOT on the subject: Unit name, address, e-mail address, Web site address for the information (if applicable), phone, fax, TTY and/or a contact phone number.

courtesy titles

Refer to both men and women by first and last name: Susan Smith or Robert Smith. Use the courtesy titles Mr., Miss, Ms. or Mrs. only in direct quotations or in other special situations: 1) When it is necessary to distinguish between two people who use the same last name, as in married couples or brothers and sisters, use the first and last name; 2) When a woman specifically requests it; for example, where a woman prefers to be known as Mrs. Susan Smith or Ms. Susan Smith.

departmentwide, divisionwide

different from

Not different than.


A person with disabilities works for DMV. Not "a disabled, or handicapped person" or "she is disabled, handicapped, etc." Do not use unless it is clearly pertinent to a story.

employee or employe

Employee is preferred. Be consistent within documents.


high-speed rail


  • Interstate highways. Interstate means between states. Capitalize Interstate when referring to a specific highway. There are seven Interstate highways in Wisconsin: I-39, I-43, I-90, I-94, I-535, I-794, and I-894. Or write “the Interstate,” or “the Interstate System.”
  • U.S. highways. U.S. highways in Wisconsin include: US 2, US 8, US 10, US 12, US 14, US 18, US 41, US 45, US 51, US 53, US 61, US 63, US 141 and US 151.
  • State and county highways. State highways are designated as “WIS,” as in WIS 29. County highways are designated as (for example) County H. Do not refer to a specific state highway as STH or state trunk highway. Do not refer to specific a county highway as CTH or county trunk highway.

logo for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) projects

The ARRA logo is to appear on all technical documents related to ARRA-funded projects. This is not a legal requirement, but a preference of state and federal agencies to help identify ARRA projects. The logo need only appear on the front page of any document that will be stapled together as one document. Documents include:

  • Proposals
  • Plans
  • Advertisements for bids
  • Bid awards and consultant selection documents
  • Contracts, including amendments and attachments
  • Special provisions
  • Change orders
  • Monthly reports
  • Agendas for technical meetings

The ARRA logo may appear on various public information documents, such as newsletters, handouts and Web pages. When the logo appears, it should appear in full color.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)


Preferred over 12 a.m.; and not 12 midnight.



In general, use last names only on second reference.

news release

news release not press release


Noon is preferred over 12 p.m.; and not 12 noon.

OK, OK’d, or okay


One word in all cases for computer connection term.


It generally refers to spatial relationships: The plane flew over the city. More than is preferred with numerals: Their salaries went up more than $20 a week.

page layout

Use left justification for copy, not full. It is informal, friendly, and easier to read than the more formal fully justified text.


Spell out in text; use symbol in charts and graphs and in materials written specifically for the Web. When two numbers are used to designate a range, use the word or symbol with each number: "The project is 20 percent to 30 percent complete." Or in a chart or table: "20% - 30%." Be consistent throughout document.

ribbon cutting

Two words.



seat belt

Safety belt is the preferred term.


Means twice a month.


Keep them short — average 15 to 20 words. A sentence is too long if you have to take a breath before you finish reading it.

side street


soon or recently

Avoid using these words on the Web as the timing is too vague.


Use descriptive subheads to break up long stretches of text. They help readers find the information they’re looking for. Use active verbs to describe the copy that follows. Don’t use labels as subheads. At least two paragraphs should follow each subhead.


Part of WisDOT’s logo; a figure of three curved lines or branches radiating from a common center.

type face

  • For publications: Choose a type size appropriate for your audience. Serif (type face characters that have serifs or strokes at the ends of the lines that form the characters) is easier to read than sans serif (no strokes, as in the print you are reading) on a printed page, but sans serif is easier to read on a computer monitor. No more than three type styles in a publication.
  • For the Web: Verdana must be used on the dotnet (WisDOT employees only). Fonts should not be used on WisDOT's Internet site and extranet pages. WisDOT's Internet and extranet fonts are controlled by style sheet[s].
  • For correspondence: WisDOT’s official type face for correspondence is Arial, 12 point (or 11 point, if necessary to make copy fit).


Use who and whom for references to human beings and animals with a name. Use that for inanimate objects and animals without a name.

Who is the word when someone is the subject of a sentence, clause or phrase (Examples: The woman who rented the room left the window open. Who is there?) Use who whenever he, she, they, I, or we could be substituted in the who clause.

Whom is the word when someone is the object of a verb or preposition. (Examples: The woman to whom the room was rented left the window open. Whom do you wish to see?) Use whom whenever him, her, them, me, or us could be substituted as the object of the verb or as the object.


One word.

Also see Words Often Confused

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Last modified: March 19, 2014

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