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Editorial Style Guide: Punctuation

H. Usage of the ampersand, apostrophe, colon, comma, dash (en and em), ellipsis, hyphen, italics, parentheses, quotation marks and semicolon

ampersand

Do not use an ampersand in text in place of the word and unless the ampersand is part of a proper name, such as a trademarked corporate title.

INCORRECT: Lynn & Jeff have agreed to do commentary at the chess match.

CORRECT: Lynn and Jeff have agreed to do commentary at the chess match.

CORRECT: The Festival of Faith and Writing is a biennial event.

See also C.34.

CORRECT: Procter & Gamble Co. recalled the product and issued an apology.

CORRECT: Discerning readers get their news from U.S. News & World Report.

apostrophe

1. Use an apostrophe plus s to form the possessive of singular nouns that do not end in s, x or z.

CORRECT: The church’s position was clear in the case of the plagiarized sermon.

2. Use an apostrophe plus s for singular common nouns ending in s, unless the following word beings with s.

CORRECT: The countess’s tiara was found in the Ecosystem Preserve, but the countess herself was never located.

CORRECT: The countess’ sister was devastated at her disappearance.

3. Use an apostrophe following the s for singular proper nouns (names) ending in s, x or z.

CORRECT: There is no biblical reference of that miracle during Jesus’ ministry.

CORRECT: Professor Rodriguez’ popularity waned after he delivered a final exam written entirely in cuneiform.

4. Use an apostrophe plus s to form the possessive form of plural nouns that do not end in s, x or z.

CORRECT: The alumni’s popular, new event involved a big-screen TV and lots of chips. (It had good attendance from male alumni.)

5. Use an apostrophe after the s to form the possessive of plural nouns, including proper nouns, that end in s, x or z.

CORRECT: It was the students’ decision to go on academic strike, and those students’ grades suffered.

CORRECT: It was the Joneses’ hideous McMansion that inspired the Smiths’ humongous new house.

6. Use the rules for plural nouns to form possessives for nouns that are the same in singular and plural.

CORRECT: During the Great Winter Tracking Challenge, one student corps’ direction was entirely diverted by the deer’s tracks in the Gainey Athletic Fields, and they ended up at DeWit Manor, asking for directions.

7. Use an apostrophe after the s to form the possessives when a plural word is found in the formal name of a singular entity.

CORRECT: Professor C. Theorist held the view that General Motors’ profits had something to do with the tuition increase.

colon

1. Use a colon to introduce a list.

CORRECT: Semester in Britain participants should expect to experience some amazing things: the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, Stonehenge and tomatoes at breakfast.

2. Do not use a colon to separate a verb from its complement or a preposition from its object (essentially separating two parts of a sentence). Use a complete sentence to introduce a list.

INCORRECT: All spring break hikers must wear: a residence hall T-shirt, hiking boots and sunscreen with SPF 30 or above—especially the sunscreen.

CORRECT: All spring break hikers must wear the following: a residence hall T-shirt, hiking boots and sunscreen with SPF 30 or above—especially the sunscreen.

3. Use a colon to connect two sentences when the second sentence is an explanation of the first. Capitalize the first word of the second sentence if it is a proper noun or the beginning of a complete sentence.

CORRECT: All students returning from the spring break hiking trip had rashes: the consequence of stumbling into poison oak.

CORRECT: All students returning from the spring break hiking trip had rashes: They had stumbled en masse into a patch of poison oak.

4. Use a colon to introduce a direct quotation of more than one sentence within a paragraph.

CORRECT: In his 1986 Commencement address, “A Good Spot of This Earth,” English professor Ed Ericson reflected on Calvin history: “And so terra agricultura became terra cultura. For what these Dutch people had built was a college campus. Naturally, they named it after a Frenchman.”

comma

1. Use a comma before the conjunction joining two independent clauses (sentences). Do not use a comma between compound elements that are not independent clauses.

CORRECT: Aaron VanVander arrived eager for his first day of classes, but he realized he would probably drop at least one of them before the week was up.

INCORRECT: Aaron VanVander arrived eager for his first day of classes, but realized he would probably drop at least one of them before the week was up.

CORRECT: Aaron VanVander arrived eager for his first day of classes but realized he would probably drop at least one of them before the week was up.

2. Use a comma to set off an introductory phrase.

CORRECT: Fleeing his organic chemistry final, Tom Cobarde took refuge in the Ecosystem Preserve.

CORRECT: In 1999, sophomore Jocelyn Sciocco failed to return from spring break.

3. Do not use the final comma (the comma preceding the conjunction) in a series, unless an integral element in the series requires a conjunction.

INCORRECT: The grant amount requested will be used for faculty training, updated technology, and Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

CORRECT: The grant amount requested will be used for faculty training, updated technology and Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

CORRECT: The grant amount requested will be used for faculty training, updated technology, and doughnuts and coffee. (The concluding element doughnuts and coffee contains the conjunction and.)

4. Use a comma between the day and year in a date. Use a comma following the year in a date. Do not use a comma when only the month and year are written.

CORRECT: Calvin College dedicated Calvin’s Crossing on May 8, 2002, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

CORRECT: Calvin College dedicated Calvin’s Crossing in May 2002 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

5. Use a comma to set off expressions—such as namely, for instance, and i.e. and e.g.— that introduce a list of examples.

CORRECT: Bones from several small animals (e.g., a mink, a squirrel, a weasel, a mongoose) were found in the art department’s kiln. (Why? Why? Why?)

6. Use a comma preceding Jr., Sr. and numerals (II, III) in a person’ s name.

CORRECT: Professor Elizabeth Vanderlei has studied the rhetoric of Martin Luther King, Jr.

dash, em and en

1.Use the em dash to signal an abrupt change of thought or to set off a parenthetical phrase within a sentence with more emphasis than commas can supply. The em dash is useful for setting off an idea that amplifies or explains the sentence. Do not capitalize the first word of the sentence or phrase set off by the em dash(es) unless it is a proper noun. Close spaces between em dashes and text.

CORRECT: If closed-up spaces are good enough for the em dashes in The New Yorker—arguably the nation’s most literary magazine—they’re good enough for Calvin College publications.

CORRECT: At the long Rangeela rehearsal—it ran over four hours!—some guys were trying to distract the dancers with laser pointers.

CORRECT: The recent performance of Dance Guild was loud—VanNord wore earplugs—and long.

CORRECT: The director of the physical plant, the current holder of the Spoelhof Chair and the president—those were the people who did an Airband act dressed as elves.

2. To create an em dash (—) on a PC, press CONTROL+ALT +the minus sign on the farthest right of the computer keyboard. To create an em dash on a Macintosh, press SHIFT+OPTION+the hyphen key.

3. Use an en dash to represent a range of numbers in dates, times and page references. The en dash is shorthand for up to and including or through. Close spaces between the en dash and text.

CORRECT: Petra: Lost City of Stone, the most comprehensive exhibition of Nabataean culture ever created, was held April 4–Aug. 15 at Calvin College.

CORRECT: Society of Lapidarians Annual Conference

Schedule
8 a.m.–9 a.m. breakfast
9:15 a.m.–10:30 a.m. keynote address: “The Many Facets of Facets”
10:30 a.m.–11 a.m. break
11 a.m.–12 p.m. workshop: The Unkindest Cut”

4. For the sake of parallel construction, if from is used before the first number, the words to or through should be used instead of an en dash.

INCORRECT: Petra: Lost City of Stone, the most comprehensive exhibition of Nabataean culture ever created, was held from April 4–Aug. 15 at Calvin College.

CORRECT: Petra: Lost City of Stone, the most comprehensive exhibition of Nabataean culture ever created, was held from April 4 through Aug. 15 at Calvin College.

CORRECT: Petra: Lost City of Stone, the most comprehensive exhibition of Nabataean culture ever created, was held April 4–Aug. 15 at Calvin College.

5. To create an en dash (–) on a PC, press CONTROL plus the minus sign at the extreme right of the computer keyboard. To create an en dash on a Macintosh, press OPTION+the hyphen key.

See also F.dates.

6. ellipsis

a. An ellipsis is a set of three non-spaced periods that indicate that part of a quotation is missing. Because writers should take care to accurately represent quoted material, please use ellipses only when necessary, and take care that any omission of quoted material leaves the meaning of the original quote intact.

b. Place an ellipsis where the omission occurs in a quote. Leave a space before and after an ellipsis.

Original quotation: “There is not a square inch of creation in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’” Abraham Kuyper

INCORRECT: “There is not a square inch of creation over which Christ does not cry: ‘Mine! ...’”

CORRECT: “There is not a square inch of creation ... over which Christ ... does not cry: ‘Mine!’”

c. When a grammatically complete sentence follows an ellipsis, capitalize the first word of that sentence, even if it was lowercased in the original quoted material.

Original quotation: “What do you mean less than nothing? I don’t think there is any such thing as less than nothing. Nothing is absolutely the limit of nothingness. It’s the lowest you can go. It’s the end of the line. How can something be less than nothing? If there were something that was less than nothing, then nothing would not be nothing, it would be something—even though it’s just a very little bit of something. But if nothing is nothing, then nothing has nothing that is less than it is.” Charlotte’s Web

INCORRECT: “What do you mean less than nothing? … nothing has nothing that is less than it is.” Charlotte’s Web

CORRECT: “What do you mean less than nothing? … Nothing has nothing that is less than it is.” Charlotte’s Web

d. Do not use an ellipsis before the first word of a quotation, even if the beginning of the sentence has been omitted. Do not use an ellipsis at the end of a sentence, even if the quotation is incomplete, unless the omission is deliberate.

Original quotation: “Yet all perfect and well-poised art is really a hint.” G.K. Chesterton

INCORRECT: “… All perfect and well-poised art is really a hint,” Chesterton tells us.

CORRECT: “All perfect and well-poised art is really a hint,” Chesterton tells us.

Original quotation: “A dreary industrial town controlled by hoodlums of enormous wealth, the ethical sense of a pack of jackals and taste so degraded that it befouled everything it touched.” S.J. Perelman on Hollywood

INCORRECT: S.J. Perelman called Hollywood “a dreary industrial town controlled by hoodlums… .”

CORRECT: S.J. Perelman called Hollywood “a dreary industrial town controlled by hoodlums.”

e. When using ellipsis points to indicate that a sentence has deliberately been left incomplete, leave a space between the ellipsis and the final punctuation.

Original quote: “In those days there was no Broene Center. If you had a problem, you had a problem.” John Timmerman

CORRECT: Commenting on mental health services in the pre-Broene Center era, the speaker had only to hint at Timmerman’s famous line, “If you had a problem … .” Several audience members nodded appreciatively.

7. hyphen

a. Hyphenate a compound modifier when it precedes a noun.

CORRECT: The well-kept shrubs on campus were evidence that the physical plant crew was hard at work.

CORRECT: The shrub into which the physical plant crew chased the giant snapping turtle was well kept.

CORRECT: He was an African-American scholar of some renown.

CORRECT: The scholar, who lectured on the ancient city of Zimbabwe, was an African American from Pittsburgh.

b. Hyphenate fund-raising and off-campus only when they are used as compound modifiers.

INCORRECT: Jeremy Verkoper did a bit of fund-raising to furnish his off-campus digs.

CORRECT: Jeremy Verkoper did a bit of fund raising to furnish his off-campus digs.

CORRECT: Verkoper’s fund-raising effort provided furniture for living off campus.

c. Hyphenate spelled-out compound numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine. Hyphenate fractions.

CORRECT: Seventy-five people showed at the reception, where 45 were expected (and they ran out of rumaki).

CORRECT: By the time the vice president delivered the giant sub to his hungry staff, it was one-third its original size.

See also F.fractions and F.general usage.

d. Use a hyphen between prefixes such as un and non and nouns. Do not use a hyphen after the prefixes anti, co, pre, semi or sub and nouns or adjectives, except proper nouns.

CORRECT: The professor scanned the student essays for signs of non-Kuyperian thinking.

CORRECT: Calvin admitted the semiliterate student, but insisted that he avail himself of Student Academic Services.

CORRECT: Many students confused patriotism with pro-American sentiment during that chaotic time.

CORRECT: “He’s subhuman,” protested the students of the interim resident adviser.

See also M.race and ethnicity.2.

e. Use a hyphen to resolve ambiguity in a sentence.

INCORRECT: The guilty students decided to recover the couch involved in the infamous “Rooks-Van Dellen Contretemps.”

CORRECT: The guilty students decided to re-cover the couch involved in the infamous “Rooks-Van Dellen Contretemps.”

f. Use a hyphen to avoid duplicate vowels and awkward letter combinations.

INCORRECT: For those who preenrolled in the Ecosystem Preserve pond study, there were free tadpoles.

CORRECT: For those who pre-enrolled in the Ecosystem Preserve pond study, there were free tadpoles.

8. parentheses and brackets

a. Use parentheses to frame an interruption (an explanation, digression or amplification) in a sentence. If an interruption retains a logical connection to the sentence, use commas to enclose it. If the interruption is disruptive enough to the sentence that commas cannot rein it in, use parentheses.

CORRECT: The Whiskey Creek Debacle, which the physical plant staff had to clean up, dyed the waterfowl in the Sem Pond bright orange.

CORRECT: The Whiskey Creek Debacle (complete history to follow) dyed the waterfowl in the Sem Pond bright orange.

b. If a phrase within parentheses forms a complete sentence, capitalize the first word of that sentence and use closing punctuation.

INCORRECT: The annual “Report on Reports” (this is a comprehensive report on all the reports issued by the influential committee on committees) was not as illuminating as we hoped it would be.

CORRECT: The annual “Report on Reports” (This is a comprehensive report on all the reports issued by the influential committee on committees.) was not as illuminating as we hoped it would be.

c. Closing punctuation—a period, question mark or exclamation mark—precedes a closing parenthesis if it belongs to the parenthetical matter and follows the closing parenthesis if it belongs to the surrounding sentence.

CORRECT: The hovercraft (Boy, can that thing maneuver!) skimmed over the Commons lawn and circled the Commons Annex!

d. Use a comma to precede an opening parenthesis only in a sentence that lists items separated by numbers or letters enclosed in parentheses. A comma should follow, not precede, a closing parenthesis.

CORRECT: Three groups of students were cited in the report: (1) high-achieving students, (2) students who were admitted on a probationary basis and (3) slackers.

INCORRECT: The professor gave a comprehensive, though perhaps laborious (and sort of crazy,) preamble to his lecture.

CORRECT: The professor gave a comprehensive, though perhaps laborious (and sort of crazy), preamble to his lecture.

e. When a phrase within parentheses qualifies as a complete sentence but is dependent on the surrounding material, do not capitalize the first word or use ending punctuation within the parentheses.

CORRECT: The interviewer’s question about the candidate’s shoe preference (it was totally inappropriate) had nothing to do with Reformed doctrine.

f. Use brackets to enclose material—editorial interpolations, explanations or corrections—added by someone other than the original writer. Material in brackets may also replace, rather than explain or amplify, the original material. Use brackets sparingly.

CORRECT: “When they [campus safety officers] crashed the DeWit Manor soiree, they claimed they did it for security reasons,” Beverly Luna said.

CORRECT: No Nabataeans [the original residents of Petra] were harmed in the creation of Petra: Lost City of Stone.

9. quotation marks

a. Use double quotation marks to enclose quotations run into the text. Use single quotation marks for quotations printed within quotations and double quotation marks for quotations within quotations within quotations.

INCORRECT: The student was overheard saying, ‘That exam was a cinch, and I didn’t even use the notes hidden in my shoe!’

CORRECT: The student was overheard saying, “That exam was a cinch, and I didn’t even use the notes hidden in my shoe!”

INCORRECT: When she began her speech at the memorial dinner with, “It may truly be said of this man that ‘he nevere yet no vileinye ne sayde/ In al his lyf, unto no maner wight,’” some of the celebrants (unfamiliar with Chaucer) thought she had been drinking.

CORRECT: When she began her speech at the memorial dinner with, “It may truly be said of this man that ‘he nevere yet no vileinye ne sayde/ In al his lyf, unto no maner wight,’” some of the celebrants (unfamiliar with Chaucer) thought she had been drinking.

b. Do not use quotation marks for block quotations set off from the text, but do use quotation marks to enclose quoted material within block quotations.

CORRECT: G.K. Chesterton made some observations on decorating in On Lying in Bed:

I could not understand why one arbitrary symbol (a symbol apparently entirely devoid of any religious or philosophical significance) should thus be sprinkled all over my nice walls like a sort of smallpox. The Bible must be referring to wallpapers, I think, when it says, “Use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do.”

c. It is not necessary to use quotation marks when the name of the speaker is given first, or in reports of testimony when the words question and answer or the letters Q and A are used.

CORRECT:
Interviewer: Who will benefit from the tuition reimbursement?
Smith: Me and my kin. Oh—and other full-time faculty and staff.

CORRECT:
Q: Can you explain the Reformed position on that issue?
A: I’m not sure that I can articulate it.

d. Set periods and commas inside quotation marks.

INCORRECT: The registrar protested, “But aqua aerobics won’t fulfill the ‘Physical World’ core requirement”.

CORRECT: The registrar protested, “But aqua aerobics won’t fulfill the ‘Physical World’ core requirement.”

CORRECT: “Reading banned books makes me feel so daring,” confided the first-year student about her “Developing a Christian Mind” (DCM) class.

e. Set exclamation points and question marks inside the quotation marks when they are part of the quotation, outside when they are part of the larger sentence.

INCORRECT: “This Calvin obsession with Krispy Kreme doughnuts must cease,” exclaimed the irate nutritionist after passing a free book table where dozens were available!

CORRECT: “This Calvin obsession with Krispy Kreme doughnuts must cease!” exclaimed the irate nutritionist after passing a free book table where dozens were available.

INCORRECT: Is it true that “He who laughs last, laughs best?”

CORRECT: Is it true that “He who laughs last, laughs best”?

f. Set semicolons and colons outside quotation marks.

INCORRECT: The professor said the itinerary for the Mexico interim needed “a little fine-tuning;” he said nothing, however, about a three-day detour to Barbados.

CORRECT: The professor said the itinerary for the Mexico interim needed “a little fine-tuning”; he said nothing, however, about a three-day detour to Barbados.

CORRECT: The provost ordered: “Shred all copies!”

g. Use single quotation marks in headlines.

INCORRECT: College architect on Fish House expansion: “Not one square inch!” (Chimes headline)

CORRECT: College architect on Fish House expansion: ‘Not one square inch!’ (Chimes headline)

10. semicolon

Use a semicolon to join two or more independent clauses (sentences) that are closely related in meaning—if, for example, the second sentence explains or amplifies or provides a contrast to the first. Lowercase the first word of the sentence following the semicolon.

CORRECT: By the time the student graduated she was pretty poor; she had run up her miscellaneous account and had to pay it to walk.

CORRECT: He went off to play guitar in chapel; we went off to play darts in publishing services.

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