Grammar and Mechanics

The quality, consistency and professionalism of correspondence/materials distributed by EFCA ministries and personnel have a powerful influence. They shape the perception that a watching world has toward the credibility of the Evangelical Free Church of America. Producing high-quality materials is part of glorifying and serving God in all that we do.

This style guide, prepared by the EFCA Communications team, is not comprehensive; grammar rules seem to be infinite. Its purpose is to provide a reference and offer guidelines for writing and style for EFCA ministry communications.

The EFCA style guide is based on the Associated Press Stylebook, and topics not specifically addressed in this guide should align with AP Style. The information presented in this document addresses frequently asked questions and common areas of inconsistency.


Keep all demographics in mind when you write. Our work communicates the priorities of the EFCA and has the power to welcome as well as alienate people. Make it easy for people to find information by pairing similar ideas and using headings and subheadings.

Start with the most important information and funnel down. Avoid grouping too many ideas.

Use short words and sentences.

Avoid flowery and distracting phrases. Write from expertise.

Use the tips and guidelines included with this style guide.




Use a.m. and p.m. All letters are lowercase, with periods following each letter and no spaces.

Appropriate use

  • 7:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.
  • Noon
  • Midnight
  • 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m

Inappropriate use

  • 7:30 – 9 a.m.
  • 10 A.M. to 2:30 P.M.
  • 7:30am – 10:30pm

Biblical References

When quoting Scripture, verses should be placed within quotation marks with the Bible version noted, as indicated below. When a Scripture reference is part of the sentence, the final punctuating period is placed after the parenthetical Scripture reference.

Always indicate the version used when quoting Scripture. Spell out the version the first time
it is used; insert the standard abbreviation for all subsequent uses (see abbreviations in
Appendix C):

  • “Jesus wept” (John 11:35, New International Version).
  • (upon second Scripture reference in the same document/article) “Jesus wept” (John 11:35, NIV).
  • “Now Jesus wept” (John 11:35, The Message).

A permissable exception: If you will always use the same Bible version within a publication (or within a document), you can indicate so in the publication’s opening credits/copyright information (or as footnoted information at the bottom of the document) and then not need to repeat the version after each verse:

  • All Scripture is from the New International Version unless otherwise indicated.


When using the New American Standard Bible (NASB), note that there is no V in its acronym.

Books of the Bible may be abbreviated when used with numerals designating chapter and verse (see Appendix C for complete list). Note that such abbreviations do not require a period and are not italicized:

  • 1 Cor 1:13
  • Jas 2:1-4

When referring to a complete book of the Bible or a chapter, spell out the name:

  • The first chapter of Matthew …

See also Evangelical Terminology.

Capitalization and Style

General rules for capitalization

For primary headlines/titles, always capitalize first and last words; then capitalize most remaining words except articles and prepositions that are three letters or shorter. In secondary headers, capitalize only the first word and any proper nouns:

Time Travels With a Friend or Two

Planning the trip of a lifetime

Titles do not need periods (even if they are full sentences), but question marks or exclamation points should be used if necessary. Subtitles require periods if they are full sentences; use other terminal punctuation as necessary:

Time Travel!

We’ll help you plan the trip of a lifetime.

Headlines should be distinguished with bold type and/or use a larger font size and/or a different font type. Bold plus underline is unnecessary and comes across as “shouting.”

In general, avoid ALL CAPS in formal documents.


The legal name of our organization is The Evangelical Free Church of America. When referring to the denomination by letters only, the should be lowercase: the EFCA. The full legal name — The Evangelical Free Church of America — is only used in legal documents. Most EFCA published pieces and correspondence will use a lowercase the.

See also Abbreviations on page 12.

Organizational titles

Capitalize a title when it precedes a person’s name. Lowercase the title if it follows a person’s name or is not attached to a name:

  • President Kevin Kompelien is speaking…
  • Kevin Kompelien, EFCA president, will meet with fellow EFCA leaders…
  • The president of the EFCA met with the executive pastor of my church…

Exception No. 1: Retain uppercasing when the name/title are set as design elements rather than as part of a sentence (see, “Email signatures”).

Exception No. 2: The title of the President of the United States is always capitalized:

  • President Barack Obama
  • Barack Obama, President of the United States

When the name of a specific board is referenced, capitalize it; otherwise, use lowercase. BOD is an approved acronym for Board of Directors:

  • The board met today.
  • The EFCA Board of Directors met in July. At that time, the BOD unanimously voted…

The proper names of schools are always capitalized. When referred to generically, use lowercase:

  • Trinity International University and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School have numerous degree programs.
  • The university and the seminary are affiliated with the EFCA.

Geographical references

Lowercase directional indicators. Uppercase the direction when referring to a specific region of the country:

  • He drove west on Highway 169.
  • People in China view Western culture as different from their own.
  • There was a significant move out West during the gold rush.


Midwest, South, Great Plains and East Coast are all capitalized, as are other nongeographical references to portions of the country (e.g., Bible Belt).

Family relationships

Mother, father, uncle, etc., are each capitalized when used as proper nouns; otherwise lowercase:

  • I got a letter from Mother.
  • My mother usually writes once a week.

See also Evangelical Terminology for capitalization guidelines on terms such as Christian, biblical, etc.


In several specific instances, words/phrases/sentences are formatted to stand out from the surrounding text (using italic if the text is in a regular font, or the reverse)

1. Magazine/book titles:

  • She submitted her article to EFCA Now and hopes that it publishes soon.
  • Be sure to read Matt Mitchell’s new book, Resisting Gossip: Winning the war of the wagging tongue.
  • (author bio at end of article, which is usually in italics) Matt Mitchell is senior pastor of Lanse (Pa.) EFC. His first book, Resisting Gossip: Winning the war of the wagging tongue, published in September 2013.

2. Unspoken thoughts or prayers:

  • Even as I explained myself, I was wondering, why me? Where will this lead?

3. Foreign terms not commonly used in English:

  • The apéritif she served was a refreshing start to our meal.
  • He reminded us that we needed el pasaporte to cross the border.
  • But more common foreign terms remain in regular text: She ordered café au lait to accompany her scone.

Country and state abbreviations

Only abbreviate the name United States when used as an adjective. In that case, use periods: U.S.

  • She recently returned to the United States. (Not: She recently returned to the U.S.)
  • He is a U.S. Senator.

Spell out the name of a state when used alone or when combined with a city. When used as a postal address with a zip code, use the two-letter postal abbreviation (see Email and Standard Mail).

The following cities fall into the Associated Press category of domestic cities that can stand alone in editorial text (not requiring a state abbreviation to follow, unless they are part of a postal address). For example, “He lives in Baltimore, but she lives in Farmington, Minnesota.”

Atlanta | Baltimore | Boston | Chicago | Cincinnati | Cleveland | Dallas | Denver | Detroit | Honolulu | Houston | Indianapolis | Las Vegas | Los Angeles | Miami | Milwaukee | Minneapolis | New Orleans | New York | Oklahoma City | Philadelphia | Phoenix | Pittsburgh | St. Louis | Salt Lake City | San Antonio | San Diego | San Francisco | Seattle | Washington


  • ReachNational ministries serve many U.S. churches.
  • Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes.
  • In the small town of Brownsdale, Minnesota, you will find townspeople greeting stray dogs by name.
  • She lives at 10 Eastgate Drive, Camp Hill, PA 17011.
  • He lives in Boston, while his mother lives in nearby Norwell, Massachusetts.


The following list shows abbreviations for educational degrees. Note that there are no spaces between letters and periods:

B.A. – Bachelor of Arts | D.D. or D.Min. – Doctor of Divinity | B.S. – Bachelor of Science | D.Miss. – Doctor of Missiology | M.A. – Master of Arts | Ph.D. – Doctor of Philosophy | M.Div. – Master of Divinity | D.S.T. – Doctor of Sacred Theology | M.Miss. – Master of Missiology | Th.D. – Doctor of Theology | M.S. – Master of Science |

All references to honorary degrees should specify that the degree was honorary. Do not use Dr. before the name of an individual whose only doctorate is honorary.

When referring generically to a degree within a sentence, use the lowercase, possessive form:

  • She has a bachelor’s (or master’s) degree in accounting.


Use of the word the before Reverend is optional. If used, spell out the word Reverend.

Both of the following are correct:

  • The Reverend A.B. Black
  • Rev. A.B. Black

Most newspapers and magazines use the Reverend. Due to the frequent use of this title within our organization, we recommend abbreviating to Rev., unless a sense of formality is necessary.

Note: Rev. is used only for ordained individuals; otherwise, use Pastor.

Also permissible:

  • The Reverend Dr. Black
  • The Reverend A.B. Black, D.D.
  • Rev. A.B. Black, D.D.

Denominational Names and Addresses

Official name

Evangelical Free Church of America. The acronym EFCA is acceptable when making reference to the denomination, its ministries, personnel and member churches. Legal documents require the legal name (see below).

Appropriate use

  • The EFCA is a movement of …
  • Materials will be sent to all EFCA churches.
  • Churches of the EFCA agree …

Inappropriate use

  • Materials will be sent to all EFC churches.
  • … to all E-Free churches.
  • … to all Free churches.

Legal Name

The Evangelical Free Church of America. A the at the beginning of the name should only be capitalized if it is the beginning of a sentence or in a legal document; otherwise lowercase. The legal name or the official EFCA brand mark must exist at least once in or on every document/piece.

Appropriate use

  • The Evangelical Free Church of America has a long, rich history …
  • … part of the rich history of The Evangelical Free Church of America. (in a legal document)

Inappropriate use

  • The evangelical free church of America has a long, rich history …
  • … part of the rich history of The Evangelical Free Church of America. (in a non-legal document)

National Office

Use national office as the preferred name for the denominational office, which is located at 901 East 78th Street in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The term/reference national office is to be used as a common (not proper) noun.

Appropriate use

  • EFCA national office (lowercase both national and office unless at the beginning of a sentence)
  • The national office ministries are ready …

Inappropriate use

  • Home office
  • Headquarters
  • Hq
  • International office
  • National Office

National Office Address and Contact Information

The preferred address format is to spell out the words East, Street and Minneapolis. For state names, follow these rules:

  1. Spell out a state name when it appears alone.
  2. When running a city/state together, spell out the state name. Abbreviate only in dateline.
  3. When noting a full postal address, use the two-letter postal abbreviation for the state (see standard state abbreviations).

For example:

  • They work at 901 East 78th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55420-1300.
  • She lives in Farmington, Minnesota, but he lives somewhere else in Minnesota.

The preferred format for phone and fax numbers is to put the area code (including toll-free numbers) in parentheses, followed by the seven-digit number (first three digits separated from last four digits by a hyphen).

Appropriate use

  • Tel. (800) XXX-XXXX
  • Tel. (952) 854-1300

Inappropriate use

  • 1 – 800 – XXX-XXXX
  • 952.854.1300

The preferred website address format is or (to go straight to ministry opportunities and leadership tools on the EFCA site).

Department and Ministry Names:

After first mention of the official ministry name, the EFCA can be dropped in further mentions:

  • First use: EFCA ReachGlobal
  • Continued use in same document: ReachGlobal

All words within official EFCA ministry department names have their first letter capitalized.

Ministry tag lines (such as “Develop. Empower. Release.” or “Maximizing Leaders”) are not included in written communication.

ReachGlobal (EFCA International Mission)

Appropriate use

  • ReachGlobal
  • ReachGlobal Connect
  • ReachGlobal Engage
  • GlobalFingerprints
  • PrayGlobal
  • ReachGlobal Recruitment
  • ReachGlobal News
  • ReachGlobal Latin America

Inappropriate Use

  • Reach Global
  • Reachglobal
  • RG
  • RG Latin America
  • EFCA Connect
  • Pray Global
  • RG News

Ministry Advancement

Appropriate use

  • Donor Services
  • EFCA Foundation

Inappropriate use

  • Fundraising department
  • Money counting department
  • Check processing


Appropriate use

  • ReachNational
  • ReachStudents
  • All People Ministry
  • African-American Ministries
  • Asian-American Ministries
  • Hispanic Ministries
  • EFCA GATEWAY Theological Institute

Inappropriate use

  • Church planting
  • Reach Students
  • RN
  • Reach National
  • Student programs
  • Gateway
  • EFCA Gateway

Pastoral Care Ministries

Appropriate use

  • Ministerial Association
  • Recovery Churches
  • Placement Services
  • Disability Benefits
  • MinisterConnection

Inappropriate use

  • Pastor’s group
  • Recovery Church
  • Job bank
  • Insurance program
  • Minsterial

Office of the President

Appropriate use

  • EFCA Chaplains
  • EFCA One
  • Strands of Thought
  • Pastoral Care Ministries
  • EFCA Credentialing

Inappropriate use

    • Chaplain’s ministry
    • Leadership Conference
    • Strand’s blog
    • PCM

Department name abbreviations/acronyms

Use acronyms to identify a department only if the name must be repeated several times in the
document, and only if the acronym’s first usage would come closely behind the initial full name (within the same or next paragraph). Do not include the acronym in parenthesis; if usage of the acronym wouldn’t be immediately clear, then don’t use the acronym at all. Always default to spelling out a department name again, if there might be any confusion.

Appropriate use

  • The Office of the President is a vital area of the EFCA that serves many churches throughout the United States. The OOP is …
  • The staff at Trinity International University is dedicated to equipping students. TIU is …

Inappropriate use

  • The Office of the President (OOP) is a vital area of the EFCA …

Generic references to ministries

When referring to ministries in general (rather than to specific EFCA departments), drop the
capitalization and use the word ministries as shown below:

  • The EFCA is a leader in developing national ministries.
  • The EFCA has a long tradition of funding international ministries around the globe.
  • To truly make this movement among all people, the EFCA is focusing on urban and intercultural ministries.
  • This movement has a strong history of church planting worldwide.


Ampersand (&)

Use the ampersand only when it is a part of a formal name or composition title:

  • House & Garden
  • Procter & Gamble
  • Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway

The ampersand should not otherwise be used in place of and, except for some accepted abbreviations:

  • B&B
  • R&B


Using an apostrophe to show a possessive relationship

Singular possessive—add apostrophe + s to the end of the word, unless the word already ends in an s:

  • Carol’s children are exceptional.
  • Jesus’ disciples followed Him.

Plural possessive—if the plural is formed by adding an s, add the apostrophe after the s. If a proper noun already contains an s, see the examples below:

  • His sons’ rooms were messy.
  • The Smiths’ clothes were torn, but the Philipses’ clothes were in fine shape.

If the word is already plural, add apostrophe + s’ to the end of the word:

  • The men’s ministry is thriving.
  • Our leadership team for the children’s ministry is tremendous.

Possessive pronouns do not need an apostrophe: his, hers, yours, theirs and ours.

Exception: Use an apostrophe to indicate a contraction (its vs. it’s):

  • A church is only as effective as its members. (its—possessive)
  • It’s time for the church’s membership to advance. (it’s—contraction for it is)


No apostrophe is needed when referring to a period of time:

  • The 1980s were an exciting time for the evangelical church.


There are two basic guidelines regarding the use of periods (or other punctuation) following the text included in bullet points:

  1. Periods. If any of the items in your list is a complete sentence, or if it’s a sentence fragment followed by a complete sentence, then all of the items in your list must contain what’s called “terminal punctuation”: a period, question mark or exclamation point, as appropriate.
  2. Upper/lowercasing. If none of the items in your list is a complete sentence, capitalization of the first word is your choice. Just be consistent with all bulleted items in the same list.
  • The mission committee recommended:
  1. A special meeting.
  2. A new chairperson. (Sarah Nealy is unable to fulfill her term.)
  3. A new monthly meeting time.

Without the parenthetical sentence of the 2nd item, all three items could have been written without periods and could have started with a lowercase first word, since they are short phrases:

  • The mission committee recommended:
  1. a special meeting
  2. a new chairperson
  3. a new monthly meeting time


In a series:

Use commas to separate elements in a series, but do not put a comma before the final conjunction in a simple series:

  • The flag is red, white and blue.
  • Incorrect: The flag is red, white, and blue.
  • He would nominate Tom, Dick or Harry.

Put a comma before the concluding conjunction in a series, however, if an integral element of the series (ham and eggs) requires its own conjunction:

  • I had orange juice, toast, and ham and eggs for breakfast.

Also use a comma before the concluding conjunction in a complex series of phrases:

  • The main points to consider are whether the athletes are skillful enough to compete, whether they have the stamina to endure the training, and whether they have the proper mental attitude.

Commas with quotation marks

The comma is always placed inside quotation marks:

  • “Let’s get going,” he said.
  • If you can’t decide where to put the “s,” ask someone.

Commas with a parenthesis

The comma is placed after the closing parenthesis:

  • We’ll need greeters and ushers, Bibles, offering plates (if available), and hymnals.


An ellipsis is three periods (no space between) and is used to indicate an omission. There is a space before and after an ellipsis. Most often, an ellipsis is used when referring to information from another source, when you have dropped text from a longer passage or quote:

  • Members of EFCA churches are … affiliated with the denomination.

But if your new wording treats the material after the ellipses as if it’s its own separate sentence, then insert a period at the end of the material before the ellipses (even if the original quote was not divided into two sentences):

  • Members of EFCA churches are affiliated with the denomination. … This interconnectedness is a powerful part of our heritage. (From the original quote reading: “Members of EFCA churches are affiliated with the denomination, and it’s long been accepted and applauded that this interconnectedness is a powerful part of our heritage.”)


Use a hyphen when two words are combined to form an adjective:

  • He was a well-known man.
  • … the 2-year-old child
  • He does inner-city work.
  • This is a short-term team opportunity.
  • Our church’s social-media usage is sporadic. (But: We are now using social media effectively.)

In most cases, don’t include a hyphen after the prefix non. Exceptions are when the word to follow is a proper noun, or when a double “n” forms an awkward combination:

  • non-nuclear
  • nonbeliever
  • non-Christian

An em dash (used to set off an expression whenever commas are needed for minor divisions within the expression) is formed by two hyphens (and when using Microsoft Word, it becomes a long dash):

  • The face—thin, harsh, cold and forceful—was deeply lined.

Numbers and digits

A sentence is never to begin with digits; either spell out the number or rewrite the sentence. Numbers 10 and above are rarely spelled out (unless they begin a sentence).

Rules for numbers below 10 have some variations (see below).

Use the symbol for percent (%) only when it is preceded by a digit, and only in lists and tables (not in sentences). Periods of time expressed in numerals are formed by adding s alone—no apostrophe (1970s).

Numbers expressed in digits

  1. All numbers 10 and higher, when not appearing as the start of a sentence.
  2. Numbers below 10 that are grouped for comparison with a much longer list of numbers 10 or higher (e.g., “They own 17 cats, 22 mice, 11 birds and 5 dogs.”).
  3. Numbers that immediately precede a unit of measure, (e.g., 5-mg. dose).
  4. Numbers that represent statistical or mathematical functions (e.g., more than 5 percent of the sample …).
  5. Numbers that represent time, dates, ages, sums or money.

Numbers expressed in words

  1. Numbers below 10 that do not represent precise measurements.
  2. Numbers below 10 that represent the majority in a comparison with numbers 10 or higher (e.g., “They own three cats, two mice, five birds and 22 dogs.”).
  3. Any number that begins a sentence, title or heading.
  4. Common fractions (e.g., two-thirds).


Parentheses are used to set off expressions when commas or dashes are not sufficient. Material within parentheses should have no essential connection with the rest of the sentence:

  • Try baking a cake that is edible (for once).
  • He went to the store (since no one else would) but forgot his money.

Note the placement of the punctuation. Closing punctuation marks go inside parentheses only when they are part of a complete sentence:

  • He was such a good friend. (I wish I could say that of my other friends!)


Periods are used after a complete sentence. Use one space between sentences. Do not use a period with any other punctuation marks, unless the period is part of an abbreviation:

Correct: Will you leave for the station at 5 a.m.?

Correct: Jan said, “At last!”
Incorrect: Jan said, “At last!.”

Always place the period inside quotation marks (no exceptions):

Correct: “The other was ‘The Old Folks at Home.’”
Incorrect: “The other was ‘The Old Folks at Home’.”

Question marks (double and single)

Place the question mark within the quote marks only if the question is part of the actual quotes:

  • Why would anyone want to read a book so “questionable”?
  • “Why aren’t you married yet?” he asked.

Use quotation marks to:

1. Mark direct quotations:

  • He said, “Try your best.” (Note that the first word of the quote begins with a capital letter.)

2. Mark titles of shorter works, such as articles, poems and chapters (use italics or underlining for titles of longer works, such as books, plays and films):

  • After reading the article “How to Fix It Yourself” in the latest Time magazine, he was eager to get started.

3. Call attention to a word, phrase or concept that is unfamiliar to the reader or that is used in a nonstandard way:

  • Based on empathy rather than confrontation, “Rogerian persuasion” offers an alternative to classical argumentation.

4. Call attention to a nontechnical term used in a technical sense:

  • Deconstruction explores the meaning of the “signs” of language.

Do not use quotation marks to:

1. Mark indirect quotations or paraphrases. Instead:

  • Our boss said that we should persevere. (Note that no comma is used to introduce a paraphrase after the word that.)

2. Mark a cliché, proverbial saying or other overused expression (such as We need to do “our very best”).

3. Emphasize a particular word or phrase. Instead, use italics:

  • I am absolutely certain.

Miscellaneous rules and conventions regarding quotation marks:

Use single quotation marks only for quotes within quotes.

Place commas and periods inside quotation marks.

Place semicolons, colons and questions marks outside quotation marks, unless they are part of the quotation.

If the quotation ends with a question mark or exclamation point, omit the first comma, as in,

“Do you want me to do this first?” Sally asked. Don’t write it as, “Do you want me to do this first?,” Sally asked. Nor as, “Do you want me to do this first?”, Sally asked.

For a quotation longer than one paragraph that is not set off from the text in a block, use quotation marks at the beginning of each paragraph and at the end of the final paragraph. For example, in a three-paragraph quotation, do not use quotation marks at the end of the first and
second paragraphs. Leave those paragraphs “open” to indicate that the quotation continues:

“This series of gradual confessions,” he said, “finally lead to the discovery that the person had been living a double life.

“It is difficult to explain the level of pain that this person’s moral failure inflicted on the staff team. Staff members who were relationally close to the fallen member felt particularly betrayed and experienced great amounts of anger.

“Four years removed, the sadness is still primal.”

If a one-sentence quotation is interrupted by a phrase of attribution, use quotation marks around both parts of the quotation, a comma after the first part of the quotation, and a comma after the phrase of attribution, as in:

  • “I’ll finish this project,” Sally said to her boss, “as soon as I get the figures from accounting.”

If a two-sentence quotation is interrupted between the sentences by a phrase of attribution, use quotation marks around both sentences, a comma after the first sentence of the quotation, and a period after the phrase of attribution, as in:

  • “I will finish this report on time,” Sally assured her boss. “It will be on your desk by noon.” (Note that the first word of the second quoted sentence begins with a capital letter.)


A semicolon calls for a more definite break or pause in thought than a comma:

  • The intention is excellent; the method is self-destructive.

A semicolon can often clarify listings that already contain commas:

  • Those attending included Carol, teacher; Jim, organist; Randy, former professional dishwasher; and Lassie, well-known actor.

Semicolons should be placed on the outside of quotation marks:

  • … in the city”;

Titles of publications/books/articles

Use quotation marks to indicate the title of an article, essay, poem, sermon, song or short musical selection, art object, etc.

Use italics or underlining (when italics are not available) when indicating the name of a book, magazine or publication in a printed piece (for online usage, avoid underline, as it indicates a live URL link):

  • I have just finished reading Why England Slept.
  • Did you read the article “One Man’s Opinion” in this morning’s New York Times?

Multiplying transformational churches among all people.