Punctuation – Asbury University
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  1. In making the plural of figures and letters, do not use an apostrophe.
    • The 1990s
    • The three Rs
    • Two CEUs
    • ’90s   
  2. Punctuate years of college classes with an apostrophe (single closing quote).
    • Class of ’25
    • James Donaldson ’19
  3. Associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees should always be written with an ’s. Never write masters’ degree or masters degree.


  1. In bulleted lists within text passages, the bullet is the punctuation. No other punctuation is required to separate listed items. Do not use commas or semicolons at the end of each item.
  2. If an item in the bulleted list is a complete sentence, then the first word should be capped and there should be a period at the end of the sentence. If the item is a non-sentence fragment, then the first word should be lowercase, with a period placed at the end of the last item in the list.
  3. Avoid mixing sentence and non-sentence items in a bulleted list.

Commas, semicolons, colons, periods

  1. Use a comma before the words and or in a series. Do not use a comma before ‘and’ in a series. An exception would be if the following phrase is a whole sentence or complete thought.
    • The handbell choir, men’s glee club and women’s choir will perform on Tuesday.
  2. Place a comma after digits signifying thousands, except when reference is made to temperature or to SAT scores.
    • 1,381 students, but 1000 degrees, and an SAT score of 1120
  3. When listing names with cities or states, punctuate as follows:
    • Matt Smith is a Los Angeles, Calif., native.
    • Greg Swanson, J.D., Wilmore, is vice president.
  4. When writing a date, place a comma between the day and the year as well as after the year.
    • July 4, 2021, was Independence Day.
    • Tuesday, July 6, was sunny.
  5. Do not place a comma between the month and year when the day is not mentioned.
    • May 2023
  6. Do not use a comma before or after Jr. or Sr., and do not precede Roman numerals such as I, II, or III with a comma. (Note: This follows AP style and Chicago style preference)
    • Please call Mr. C.E. Crouse Jr. for the report from the board.
    • Contact James Heidinger II for the board meeting.
    • Exception: In formal social documents, commas may be retained with Jr. or Sr. according to the author’s preference.
  7. 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.
  8. No space should be used between the initials of an abbreviation or a person’s name.
    • C.E. Crouse

NOTE: Grammatical rules regarding punctuation are often bent for the sake of visual appeal, especially in headings or display type.


  1. Use an en dash or smaller dash (–) with no extra space before or after:
    1. to indicate continuing (or inclusive) numbers, dates, times, or reference numbers.
      • 2020–23 (from 2020 to 2023) 
        Note: never from 2020–23
      • May–June 2020 (from May to June 2020)
      • 10 a.m.–5 p.m. (between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.)
      • pp. 38–45 (from pages 38 to 45)
    2. in a compound adjective one element of which consists of two words or of a hyphenated word.
      • Cincinnati–Chicago flight
      • post–Civil War period
      • quasi-public–quasi-private judicial body
  2. Use an em dash or larger dash (—) with no extra space before or after:
    1. to denote a sudden break in thought that causes an abrupt change in sentence structure.
      • Consistency—that hobgoblin of little minds.
    2. in defining or enumerating complementary elements.
      • The influence of three musicians—Mozart, Bach and Beethoven—was of great importance in his development as a musician.
    3. in sentences having several elements as reference of a pronoun that is the subject of a final, summarizing clause.
      • Smith, Jones and McCoy—all felt groggy on humid days.


  1. In general, treat an ellipsis as a three-letter word, constructed with three periods and a regular space on either side of the ellipsis, as shown here ( … ).
  2. When material is deleted at the end of one paragraph and at the beginning of the one that follows, place an ellipsis in both locations.
  3. In writing a story, do not use ellipses at the beginning and end of direct quotes that form complete sentences.
    • “It has become evident to me that I no longer have a strong enough political base,” Nixon said.
      not “ … it has become evident to me that I no longer have a strong enough political base … ,” Nixon said.


  1. Use the nonhyphenated spelling of a word if either spelling is acceptable.
  2. Do not hyphenate the words vice president and words beginning with non, except those containing a proper noun.
    • non-German
    • nontechnical
  3. Hyphenate pre professional programs.
    • pre-med
    • pre-law
  4. Do not place a hyphen between the prefix sub and the word to which it is attached.
    • subtotal
  5. Hyphenate the word X-ray and use a capital X.
  6. Hyphenate part-time and full-time when used as adjectives. Hyphenate any modifying word combined with well, ill, better, best, little, lesser when used as an adjective preceding a noun. Do not hyphenate when the expression carries a modifier or when it follows a noun.
    • well-built engine
    • a moderately well built engine
    • The engine is well built.
  7. Hyphenate a compound in which one component is a number and the other is a noun or adjective.
    • 30-mile run
    • 10-year-old child, but 10 years old
    • 12,000-square-foot building
  8. Use your dictionary to determine whether to hyphenate frequently used compound words. Note that hyphenated words can be created for the sake of clarity.
  9. Whenever possible, avoid the hyphenation of proper names when breaking text lines.
  10. Hyphenate sports scores; do not use an en dash.
  11. Watch hyphens in a body of copy. Do not use hyphenations unless absolutely necessary.

Quotation marks

  1. The titles of books, plays, movies, radio and television programs, long musical compositions, operas, pamphlets, periodicals, etc., should be italicized, while titles of book series, film series, radio and television episodes, songs, essays, lectures, and parts of volumes (chapters, titles of papers, etc.) should be placed in quotation marks.
    • C.S. Lewis is the author of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
    • The concert band played “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.”
  2. Use single quotation marks for quotations printed within other quotations.
  3. If several paragraphs are to be quoted, use quotation marks at the beginning of each paragraph, but at the end of the last paragraph only. No quotation marks are needed for passages set off from the text by additional space, an indent, or change of typeface.
  4. Set quotation marks after periods and commas and before colons and semicolons. Exclamation points and interrogation marks that are not part of the quotation should be set outside quotation marks.
    • Peterson said, “Thank you for coming to the banquet.”
    • “It was a great game,” said Smith.
    • Kego had three objections to “Filmore’s Summer”: It was contrived; the characters were flat; the dialogue was unrealistic.
    • The man cried, “They stole my new car!”
  5. Use editor’s brackets, not parentheses, to set off editorial remarks within direct quotations.
    • “Johnson saw it [the war] as a personal test of wills.”


  1. Write out numerals nine and under.
  2. Use numerals for
    1. Figures 10 or over, including ordinals, e.g., 22nd.
    2. Days of the month, omitting rd, th, st, nd.
      • April 6, June 1
    3. Degrees, ratios, percentages, persons’ ages, course or program credit hours.
      • longitude 67°03’06″W
      • 21.5°F below zero
      • 6 percent
      • 7 years old
      • 3 credit hours
    4. Sums which are cumbersome to spell out, but spell out the word million.
      • 5-3/4
      • 17.9 million
      • 3 million (note use of digit, since 3,000,000 is being represented)
  3. Avoid unnecessary ciphers.
    1. Hours of the day: 7 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. Do not use 7:00 p.m. except in lists of events, etc., to preserve alignment of type.
    2. In amounts of money with the dollar sign: $3 (not $3.00), unless tabulated in columns.
    3. Do not begin a sentence with numerals; supply a word or spell out the figures. Please note that numbers below 100 should be hyphenated when they consist of two words.
      • Thirty-nine
    4. Do not add a numeral in parentheses after it’s written in words:
      • three copies, not three (3) copies
  4. Use hyphens to set off fractions if fractions are not available in a particular typeface: 8-1/2″ x 11″.


For answers to other questions of style and spelling, consult the Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual, American Heritage Dictionary, or Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary.

  1. acknowledgment and judgment (no e after g)
  2. advisor preferred to adviser
  3. affect: to have an influence on; effect: to bring about
  4. African American is two words. Hyphenate only when used as an adjective.
    • She is an African American.
    • We study African-American history and culture.
  5. Use a.m. and p.m. and do not include o’clock. Designate noon or midnight, rather than 12 a.m. or 12 p.m.
  6. Attorney is used only when referring to the representative of a client, otherwise lawyer.
  7. between: when referring to two things, among: when referring to more than two
  8. capital for the city, capitol for the building
  9. catalog, not catalogue
  10. course work, not coursework
  11. credit-hour (adjective), credit hour (noun)
  12. database, not data base
  13. disabled, not handicapped (preferred form: If you have family members with disabilities, please park behind Kinlaw Library.)
  14. Doctorate is a noun, and doctoral is an adjective.
  15. ensure-is used in place of “to make certain,” insure-is used when referring to providing insurance or providing financial compensation for damaged property, health, etc.
  16. Entitled, titled; Books, lectures and movies are titled. People are entitled.
  17. Fax is not a proper noun nor an acronym and should be used upper and lowercase as appropriate.
  18. freshman (adj.): the freshman enrollment (never the freshmen enrollment)
  19. fund raising (noun), fund-raising (adjective), fund raiser (noun)
  20. grade point average, not grade-point average
  21. high school (noun), high-school (adjective)
  22. in regard to (never in regards to), but, he sends his regards
  23. international students, not foreign students
  24. kickoff (noun or adjective), kick off (verb)
  25. lay (transitive): I lay the book on the bed; past tense: I laid the book on the bed.
  26. lie (intransitive): I lie in bed; past tense: I lay in bed.
  27. less when describing an amount that cannot be counted, fewer when describing a number:
    • He was less agreeable to the plan than she was.
    • Fewer than 12 students attended the seminar.
  28. more than instead of over when referring to numbers.
    • More than 50 people attending the reception.
    • More than 1,000 students went to the basketball game.
  29. resume as shown here, not résumé or resumé
  30. theatre when referring to the department, discipline, building or a performance; Doddridge Holland Theatre, the theatre and cinema program 
  31. workplace, not work place
  32. workstation, not work station


  1. Passive voice: The dean appointed John Jones; not, John Jones was appointed.
  2. The longer of two similar words: use (not utilize), competence (not competency).
  3. Sexist language: Avoid using he or she where possible, and do not use he/she. Write, “The president and a representative …” not “The president and his/her representative …” Other avoidance techniques include pluralizing he and she to they, or substituting a common noun.
  4. The split infinitive.
    • He was told to quickly process the papers.
    • He was told to process the papers quickly. (preferred)
  5. The dangling participle.
    • Straddling the Arizona–New Mexico border, the archaeologist found a string of ancient pueblo ruins. (Was the archaeologist straddling the border?)
    • The archaeologist found a string of ancient pueblo ruins straddling the Arizona–New Mexico border. (better)