University of Rochester
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Style Guide

Punctuation

A
ampersand (&)

Do not replace the conjunction "and" with an ampersand in text or headlines, unless the ampersand is used in an official name.

Bausch & Lomb Hall

Ampersands can be used in decorative headings in print and Web publications.

apostrophe

Possessives of singular words are normally formed by adding 's .

a man's home
James's friend
Jesus's teachings

Possessives of plural words that have become plural by addition of an s or es are formed by an apostrophe only.

our leaders' views
the Joneses' house
the children's toys

When possession is joint, use an apostrophe only with the last owner.

John and Mary's house

When the possession is individual, use an apostrophe after each owner.

John's and Mary's computers are broken.

For plurals of single letters, add 's.

She got all A's this semester.

Plurals of academic degrees do NOT require an apostrophe

B.A.s, B.S.s, Ph.D.s
C
colon (:)

A colon may be used in the following ways:

To introduce quoted material.

The mayor said: "I will resign my office immediately."

To introduce a passage either in or out of quotation marks.

The following message was received via e-mail:

To introduce a series.

The council will tackle three projects: city renovations, park improvements, and urban landscaping.

To separate the clauses of a compound sentence when the second clause is an illustration, a restatement, or an example of the first.

The Iraqi war planners faced one major obstacle: They lacked international support.

Avoid overusing colons for dramatic effect.

Do not use a colon for a list preceded by the word includes.

NOT— The list of attendees includes: John, Mary, Sue, and Mark.
comma

University style uses the comma preceding the and in a series.

Please check all copy for spelling, grammar, and consistency of style.

When abbreviations for academic degrees appear in text, they are set off by commas.

Mary Smith, Ph.D., will organize the concert.

When writing dates in text, the year is set off by commas.

The events of December 7, 1941, will long live in infamy.

BUT if the day is not specified then there is no comma before or after the year.

The events of December 1941 will long live in infamy.

Commas are used to set off the individual elements in addresses in running text. No comma appears between an abbreviation such as NY and a street name or before a ZIP code.

His old house at 23 NE Main Street, Rochester, NY, was torn down ages ago.
D
dash

See em-dash, en-dash, and hyphen

E
ellipsis ( . . . )

An ellipsis is three dots (periods) used to indicate omission (of a word, phrase, line, etc.). There is a space on both sides of each dot. Do not insert an ellipsis symbol; type out the ellipsis using periods and spaces.

If the omitted material is at the end of the sentence, a period follows the last word followed by the ellipsis.

"That was the end of the case. . . . Sentencing begins on Tuesday."
exclamation point (!)

Use very sparingly. Exclamation points go inside the closing quotation mark when it applies only to the quoted material, outside otherwise.

"I can't believe it!" she cried.
em-dash (—)

Em-dashes are used to denote sudden changes in sentence structure. They are also used (instead of commas) to set off an explanation or emphasis.

Joan—despite her brother's warning—entered the dark building.

The em-dash is often typed as a double hyphen in copy. In printed material, this should be changed to an em dash—which has no space on either side. University typographical standards are to add a little "air" on either side of the dash, but NEVER a full space. In Web copy, use the HTML code —

CAUTION: Since the em dash is a more commanding stop than a comma, overuse of dashes is more jarring to readers than overuse of commas. Use sparingly.

en-dash (–)

An en-dash is used to connect continuing or inclusive numbers, replacing the word to in dates, times, or reference numbers. It is also used instead of a hyphen in compound adjectives when one or more of the elements consists or more than one word.

1968–72
10 a.m.–5 p.m.
pp. 35–45
New York–London flight

An en-dash is half the length of an em-dash and longer than a hyphen. In copy it is usually typed as a hyphen. In Web copy, use the HTML code –

H
hyphen

The following are some general guidelines for hyphen usage. See entries for individual words for further explanations.

NATIONALITY COMBINATIONS: Hyphenate most ethnicity combinations when used as an adjective. Do not hyphenate noun combinations.

African-American history
discrimination against Irish Americans in the 19th century
EXCEPTION: Latin American is never hyphenated.

NUMBERS: from twenty-one to ninety-nine, when spelled out, are hyphenated.

FRACTIONS: Hyphenate a fraction when it is used as a adjective (e.g., a two-thirds majority). Write as two words when used as a noun (e.g. two thirds of the participants).

X-TO-Y COMBINATIONS: 16-to-32-year-olds

INVENTED VERBS: Woods three-putted on the ninth green.

SUSPENDED HYPHENS: They climbed the third- and fourth-highest peaks.

PREFIXES: Prefixes are generally solid. Follow entries for individual words and the dictionary for words not in this style guide.

P
parentheses ()

Put periods outside a parenthesis at the end of a sentence if the inserted text is part of a larger sentence, and inside if the inserted text stands independently.

President Jackson addressed the graduates (text on page 78).
All of the scholarship winners were honored at the dinner. (A complete list appears in the event program.)

When a parenthetical sentence is included in another sentence, omit the period inside the parentheses.

The baseball game (she had been listening to it on the radio) was now in extra innings.

Put caption directions in parentheses, unless the direction is the first word in the sentence.

Provost Charles Phelps (left) presents the award to Jane Doe.
Left, Phelps speaks to the freshman class.

The closing parenthesis goes inside the closing quotation mark when the parenthetical element is part of the quotation.

She wrote, "We can meet on Friday (May 1)," although she had no intention of joining the group.

The closing parenthesis goes outside the closing quotation mark when the quotation is part of the parenthetical element.

Joe (also known as "funny boy") was the life of the party.
period (.)

Use a single space following a period at the end of a sentence.

He isn't here. He went to the movies.
Q
question mark (?)

The question park is used to mark a direct question. An indirect question never takes a question mark.

How are we going to resolve this matter?
He wondered how they were going to resolve the matter.

A question mark should be placed inside quotation markes only when the question is part of the quoted material.

He asked, "How long have you worked here?"
Couldn't she just say, "Nice job"?
quotation marks

The University uses the American style of punctuation with quotation marks.

COMMAS AND PERIODS: Commas and periods always go inside the closing quotation mark (single or double).

He marked the package "Fragile," but that meant nothing to the delivery crew.
She said, "Would you please repeat that."
Sign your name wherever you see an "X."
She said, "Mark all the orders 'Rush.' "

SEMICOLONS AND COLONS: Semicolons and colons always go outside the closing quotation mark (single or double).

You said, "The check is in the mail"; however, I have not yet received it.

QUESTION MARKS AND EXCLAMATION POINTS: Question marks and exclamation points go inside the closing quotation mark when it applies only to the quoted material.

He asked, "How long have you worked here?"
Couldn't she just say, "Nice job"?

PARENTHESES: The closing parenthesis goes inside the closing quotation mark when the parenthetical element is part of the quotation.

She wrote, "We can meet on Friday (May 1)," although she had no intentions of joining the group.

The closing parenthesis goes outside the closing quotation mark when the quotation is part of the parenthetical element.

Joe (also known as "funny boy") was the life of the party.

If the quoted material consists of two or more paragraphs, place an opening quotation mark in front of each paragraph. However, place the closing quotation mark at the end of the last paragraph only.

Titles of the following publications should be roman type in quotation marks:

features (newspapers)manuscripts in collection
chapter titleslectures and papers
short storiesepisodes of TV and radio programs
essaysindividual pop songs
articlesshort compositions
dissertations and thesesworks of art
S
semicolon (;)

Semicolons can be used in compound sentences.

I went home; he went to the party.

Divisions between phrases that already have commas should be made with a semicolon.

They went hiking in Montana, North Dakota, and Idaho; skiing in California and Colorado; and sailing in Washington and Oregon.

Semicolons and colons always go outside the closing quotation mark (single or double).

You said, "The check is in the mail"; however, I have not yet received it.

Last modified: Tuesday, 10-Jan-2006 16:05:37 EST