As you’re developing your newsletters, social media posts, blogs and other communications for your alumni association, you might be wondering which form of the word you should use in a given situation.
Should it be “Alumni?” “Alumnus?” “Alumnae?”
There are several forms of the word, all used to describe a graduate of an educational institution, so which is the correct word to describe the type of graduate you’re talking about?
Here’s a quick and helpful overview for you to reference.
The word “alumni” is probably the most frequently used word to describe graduates. It is a plural noun, referring to a collection of male or male and female graduates.
You might say, for example, “John and Jane are alumni of George Washington High School.”
The word “alumnus” refers to a single male graduate of an institution. A group of male graduates would be referred to as “alumni.”
You might say, “Joe is an alumnus of the University of Michigan.”
Just as “alumnus” is used to refer to an individual male graduate, the word “alumna” is used to refer to an individual female graduate.
You might say, “Katie is an alumna of Springfield High School.”
The word “alumnae” is used to refer to a group of female graduates. Compare this to “alumni,” which is used for groups of male graduates, or groups comprising both male and female graduates.
You might say, “Ashley, Susan, and Lindsay are alumnae of the University of Tennessee.”
The word “alum” is meant to be a more informal reference to an individual male or female graduate. This is a helpful word to use in informal communications when you might frequently forget the above rules!
In addition, you can also use the plural “alums” to informally refer to a group of any male, female or mixed graduates.
Again, this word is only meant for casual conversation and communications. Grammar and etiquette experts suggest using the above proper Latin words in professional or formal settings, such as in invitations, at graduation ceremonies, on resumes and at awards banquets.
Regardless of what you call the group, the most important thing is that your alums all share the same sense of pride in their background! But we hope you find this a helpful language guide for your communications moving forward.