University of Rochester

Writing the Paper

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Use of Words or Numerals | Dates | Titles | Quotations | Ellipsis | Punctuation with Quotations | Common Errors


Use of Words or Numerals

In general, write as words all whole numbers from one to nine and use numerals for all numbers 10 and over. Never begin a sentence with a numeral, but rather write the number out as a word.


Be consistent in writing dates: use either 24 July 1994 or July 24, 1994, but not both. Spell out centuries in lowercase letters (the twentieth century) and hyphenate them when used as adjectives modifying a noun (twentieth-century modernism). Decades are usually written out without capitalization, but it is becoming acceptable to express them in figures (the 1980s or the `80s). Whichever form you use, be consistent.



NOTE: Underlining is used to indicate italics. Therefore, if your word processor offers the option to italicize, you may do so. Whatever you choose, be consistent throughout your paper. (Throughout the rest of this document italicization will be used in place of underlining.)

Italicize or underline titles of works of art, other than architecture: Michelangelo's David, van Gogh's Sunflowers, but the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Palazzo Vecchio.

Italicize or underline titles of books other than holy works: Art and Illusion, The Odyssey, Genesis, the Bible, the Koran.

Titles to be italicized or underlined include books, plays, long poems, pamphlets, periodicals, films, radio and television programs, record albums, ballets, operas, instrumental music, ships, aircraft, and spacecraft.

  • Examples:
  • The Awakening (book)
  • Romeo and Juliet (play)
  • Wall Street Journal (newspaper)
  • Time (magazine)
  • It's a Wonderful Life (film)
  • Star Trek (television program)
  • The Nutcracker (ballet)
  • Rigoletto (opera)

Use quotation marks for the titles of works published within larger works (the article "Crime Rate Declines" appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle). Such titles include the names of articles, essays, short stories, short poems, chapters of books, and individual episodes of radio and television programs. Also use quotation marks for songs and for unpublished works, such as lectures and speeches.



While quotations are common and often effective in research papers, use them selectively. Quote only words, phrases, lines, and passages that are particularly interesting, vivid, unusual, or apt, and keep all quotations as brief as possible. Whether you quote directly or paraphrase in your own words, be sure to credit your sources. See section on Documenting Sources.

In general, a quotation, whether a word, phrase, sentence or more, should correspond exactly to its source in spelling, capitalization, and interior punctuation. If you change it in any way, make the alteration clear to the reader, following the rules and recommendations explained below.

If a prose quotation runs no more than four typed lines and requires no special emphasis, put it in quotation marks and incorporate it in the text: Jackson Pollock said, "When I am in my painting, I'm not aware of what I'm doing. It is only after a sort of 'get acquainted' period that I see what I have been about."

Remember, though, that you need not always quote full sentences. Sometimes you may want to quote just a word or phrase as part of your sentence. Use brackets [ ] to enclose paraphrased material or pronouns or words you have supplied: As Pollock's action painting demonstrates, seeing "what I have been about" occurs in the process itself.

If a quotation runs to more than four typed lines, set if off from your text by beginning a new line, indenting the entire quotation five spaces from the left margin, and typing it single-spaced (unless otherwise instructed) without adding quotation marks:

When I am in my painting, I'm not aware of what I'm doing. It is only after a sort of "get acquainted" period that I see what I have been about. I have no fears about making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and Night Cafethe painting comes out well.


Ellipsis (three spaced periods...)

When you wish to omit a word, phrase, sentence, or paragraph from a quoted passage, you should be guided by two principles:

  1. fairness to the intent of the author quoted and
  2. the grammatical integrity of your own text.

Original text from Vincent van Gogh:

In my picture of the Night Café, I have tried to express the idea that a cafe is a place where one can ruin oneself, run mad, or commit a crime. I have tried to express the terrible passions of humanity by means of red and green. The room is blood-red and dark yellow, with a green billiard table in the middle; there are four lemon-yellow lamps with a glow of orange and green. Everywhere there is a clash and contrast of the most alien reds and greens in the figures of little sleeping hooligans in the empty dreary room, in violet and blue.

Text with ellipsis in the middle and end of the quote:

"I have tried to express the terrible passions of humanity by means of red and green...a clash and contrast of the most alien reds and greens in the figures of little sleeping hooligans in the empty dreary room...." [ellipsis plus period]


Punctuation with Quotations

Use a colon before a quotation if you formally introduce it, but either no punctuation or a comma before a quotation you integrate into the sentence.

Francis Bacon argued thus: "There is no excellent Beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion."
Francis Bacon thought "there is no excellent Beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion."


Common Errors

The Apostrophe: To form the possessive of a name, add 's even if the name already ends with a sibilant (-s, -x, -cks, -z):

  • El Greco's colors
  • Rubens's models
  • Velazquez's subjects
  • Augustus John's sketches (last name is John)
  • Jasper Johns's recent work (last name is Johns)

Know the difference between its and it's (it's = it is):

  • The sculpture extends into its space. (possessive)
  • It's an aggressive sculpture because it extends into the viewer's space. (it + is followed by the possessive form of viewer).

Subject/verb agreement: The painting hangs in the Louvre. The paintings hang in the Louvre.

Comparative form: Many comparatives are formed by adding -er. harsh - harsher (not - more harsh) blue - bluer (not - more blue) clear - clearer (not - more clear)

Active versus Passive Voice: Active voice creates clear and direct expression without the use of an auxiliary verb like "to have" or "to be." Do not use the passive voice unless the action rather than the actor is to be emphasized. Make sure you're not avoiding the issue of who was acting.

  • Examples:
  • I will always remember my first visit to Egypt. (active)
  • My first visit to Egypt will always be remembered by me. (passive and weak)
  • Viewers at the Armory Show did not appreciate European abstract art. (active)
  • European abstract art was not appreciated by viewers at the Armory Show. (passive and weak)
  • European abstract art was presented to the public at large for the first time at the Armory show. (passive with an emphasis on the action)

Distinguish between people and other subjects: Who and whom refer only to persons; which and that refer to animals and things.

  • I like the vase which/that appeared in the exhibit.
  • I like the ceramic artist who made the vase.

Avoid overuse of double dashes to insert a phrase into a sentence: In most cases commas are the appropriate punctuation.

  • This guide—from the Art and Art History Department—will help you to avoid needless errors. (too journalistic)
  • This guide, from the Art and Art History Department, will help you to avoid needless errors. (better)