Punctuation Guide


  • Use with an “s” to make a singular proper name possessive; e.g., Bobby’s
  • Place the apostrophe after the “s” when possessive is plural
  • To express the shortened form of years of college classes; e.g., Class of ’76
  • Before s when using the spelled-out form of degrees; e.g., bachelor’s degree or master’s degree

Do not use:

  • primes (apostrophe and quotes) to designate inches and feet and navigational/degree notation; e.g., 12 inches not 12″; 67 degrees not 67°
  • when making the plural; e.g., 1980s

Commas, Semicolons, Colons

  • Place a comma after digits signifying thousands, except when reference is made to temperature or to SAT scores; e.g., 1,150 students, but 1100 degrees and an SAT score of 1143Use a colon to introduce a list of items.
  • Use a colon to introduce a list of items.
  • When listing city names with states, use the state abbreviation followed by a period and comma unless at the end of a sentence; with the exception of the following eight states which should be spelled out: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah; e.g., Robert Green is a San Antonio, Texas, native. Clara Temple comes from Kansas City, Mo.


If a phrase is within parentheses at the end of a sentence, place the period after the closing parenthesis.

If a complete sentence is in parentheses, the period should be inside the closing parenthesis.


An ellipsis is a string of three periods with a single space before and after to denote continuation on an idea.  e.g., The audience applauded, then there was silence … and suddenly music started playing.


Apply italics to:

  • Titles of books, plays, movies, radio and television programs, musical compositions, operas, pamphlets, periodicals, etc.Latin names.
  • Latin names.Scientific names; e.g.,
  • Scientific names; e.g., canis familiaris
  • To emphasize words and phrases; e.g., The time to start planning is now.

Quotation Marks

  • Apply quotation marks to essays, lectures, and parts of volumes, chapters, titles of papers, etc.
  • Use single quotation marks for quotations printed within other quotations.
  • If several paragraphs are to be quoted, use open-quote marks at the beginning of each paragraph, but use close-quote marks only at the end of the final paragraph.
  • Set quotation marks after periods and commas and before colons and semicolons.
  • Use editor’s brackets, not parentheses, to set off editorial remarks within direct quotations; e.g., “Jacobs saw it [the movie] and was moved by the story.”
  • Do not place quotation marks around the Bible or books that are primarily catalogs of reference material.

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