College miscellanea


Autumn always takes me back to my glorious college days at the hallowed halls of the venerable University of Kansas. The blazing fall colors, the snap in the air, the smell of cheap beer…so in that spirit, we’re going to tackle two things that confuse writers on a consistent basis: the various forms of the Latin alumni and the correct punctuation and grammar of college degrees.

Both of these issues have crept up in recent editing projects, so I want to set the record straight right now.

In two resumes I’ve edited lately, the writers, both male, mentioned their respective university “alumnae associations.” Apparently, alumni just doesn’t cut it anymore. Better to move on to the lesser-known but more esoteric alumnae. It gives people the impression that you know something they don’t, like the old, tired alumni is passé.

Looks cooler, right? Seems abstruse and arcane (give me a break — it’s not every day I get use those words). Alumnae even appears a little dangerous, what with that a nestled right next to the e, as if you roped Hillary and Sarah’s calves together for the bipartisan picnic three-legged race, huh? Just one problem, fellas — alumnae refers specifically and solely to female graduates. Instead of seeming like the smartest guy in the room, you come off like grand marshal of the dork parade. So unless you’ve had surgery you’re not telling anyone about, stick to alumni. Any time you become confused, I want you to picture Hillary and Sarah, and remember that a and e are for chicks only.

On to college degrees. You were smart enough to get through college, right, but you still can’t figure out how to write out your degree. Is it bachelors degree or bachelor’s degree? Wonder no more. Here’s how it works:

I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism. I am a Bachelor of Science.

You have a master’s degree in 14th century Latvian poetry. You are a Master of Arts.

She has a doctoral degree in crunk. She is a Doctor of Hip-Hop. (Note: “doctorate” is the same thing as “doctoral degree.” Never follow doctorate with degree. Doctorate stands alone.)

Remember that the apostrophe means the degree belongs to you, a Master of Arts. The indefinite article should tip you off. You can’t put “a” with a plural noun (masters, bachelors). Get it?

Okay. Now let’s raise our glasses high to the blue and red. Rock Chalk! Jayhawk! Go KU!

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