PUNCTUATION MARKS AND HOW TO USE THEM
ampersand (&)Use the ampersand when it is part of a company’s formal name: Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co.
The ampersand should not otherwise be used in place of and.
apostrophe (’) Follow these guidelines:
POSSESSIVES: See thepossessives entry in main section.
PLURAL NOUNS NOT ENDING IN S: Add ’s: the alumni’s contributions, women’s rights.
PLURAL NOUNS ENDING IN S: Add only an apostrophe: the churches’ needs, the girls’ toys, the horses’ food, the ships’ wake, states’ rights, the VIPs’ entrance.
NOUNS PLURAL IN FORM, SINGULAR IN MEANING: Add only an apostrophe: mathematics’ rules, measles’ effects. (But see INANIMATE OBJECTS below.)
Apply the same principle when a plural word occurs in the formal name of a singular entity: General Motors’ profits, the United States’ wealth.
NOUNS THE SAME IN SINGULAR AND PLURAL: Treat them the same as plurals, even if the meaning is singular: one corps’ location, the two deer’s tracks, the lone moose’s antlers.
SINGULAR NOUNS NOT ENDING IN S: Add ’s: the church’s needs, the girl’s toys, the horse’s food, the ship’s route, the VIP’s seat.
Some style guides say that singular nouns ending in s sounds such as ce, x, and z may take either the apostrophe alone or ’s. See SPECIAL EXPRESSIONS, but otherwise, for consistency and ease in remembering a rule, always use ’s if the word does not end in the letter s: Butz’s policies, the fox’s den, the justice’s verdict, Marx’s theories, the prince’s life, Xerox’s profits.
SINGULAR COMMON NOUNS ENDING IN S: Add ’s unless the next word begins with s: the hostess’s invitation, the hostess’ seat; the witness’s answer, the witness’ story.
SINGULAR PROPER NAMES ENDING IN S: Use only an apostrophe: Achilles’ heel, Agnes’ book, Ceres’ rites, Descartes’ theories, Dickens’ novels, Euripides’ dramas, Hercules’ labors, Jesus’ life, Jules’ seat, Kansas’ schools, Moses’ law, Socrates’ life, Tennessee Williams’ plays, Xerxes’ armies.
SPECIAL EXPRESSIONS: The following exceptions to the general rule for words not ending in s apply to words that end in an s sound and are followed by a word that begins with s: for appearance’ sake, for conscience’ sake, for goodness’ sake. Use ’s otherwise: the appearance’s cost, my conscience’s voice.
PRONOUNS: Personal interrogative and relative pronouns have separate forms for the possessive. None involves an apostrophe: mine, ours, your, yours, his, hers, its, theirs, whose.
Caution: If you are using an apostrophe with a pronoun, always double-check to be sure that the meaning calls for a contraction: you’re, it’s, there’s, who’s.
Follow the rules listed above in forming the possessives of other pronouns: another’s idea, others’ plans, someone’s guess.
COMPOUND WORDS: Applying the rules above, add an apostrophe or ’s to the word closest to the object possessed: the major general’s decision, the major generals’ decisions, the attorney general’s request, the attorneys general’s request. See theplurals entry for guidelines on forming the plurals of these words.
Also: anyone else’s attitude, John Adams Jr.’s father, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania’s motion. Whenever practical, however, recast the phrase to avoid ambiguity: the motion by Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania.
JOINT POSSESSION, INDIVIDUAL POSSESSION: Use a possessive form after only the last word if ownership is joint: Fred and Sylvia’s apartment, Fred and Sylvia’s stocks.
Use a possessive form after both words if the objects are individually owned: Fred’s and Sylvia’s books.
DESCRIPTIVE PHRASES: Do not add an apostrophe to a word ending in s when it is used primarily in a descriptive sense: citizens band radio, a Cincinnati Reds infielder, a teachers college, a Teamsters request, a writers guide.
Memory Aid: The apostrophe usually is not used if for or by rather than of would be appropriate in the longer form: a radio band for citizens, a college for teachers, a guide for writers, a request by the Teamsters.
An ’s is required however, when a term involves a plural word that does not end in s: a children’s hospital, a people’s republic, the Young Men’s Christian Association.
DESCRIPTIVE NAMES: Some governmental, corporate and institutional organizations with a descriptive word in their names use an apostrophe; some do not. Follow the user’s practice: Actors’ Equity, Diners Club, the Ladies’ Home Journal, the National Governors’ Association. See separate entries for these and similar names frequently in the news.
QUASI POSSESSIVES: Follow the rules above in composing the possessive form of words that occur in such phrases as a day’s pay, two weeks’ vacation, three days’ work, your money’s worth.
Frequently, however, a hyphenated form is clearer: a two-week vacation, a three-day job.
DOUBLE POSSESSIVE: Two conditions must apply for a double possessive — a phrase such as a friend of John’s — to occur: 1. The word after of must refer to an animate object, and 2. The word before of must involve only a portion of the animate object’s possessions.
Otherwise, do not use the possessive form of the word after of: The friends of John Adams mourned his death. (All the friends were involved.) He is a friend of the college. (Not college’s, because college is inanimate).
Memory Aid: This construction occurs most often, and quite naturally, with the possessive forms of personal pronouns: He is a friend of mine.
INANIMATE OBJECTS: There is no blanket rule against creating a possessive form for an inanimate object, particularly if the object is treated in a personified sense. See some of the earlier examples, and note these: death’s call, the wind’s murmur.
In general, however, avoid excessive personalization of inanimate objects, and give preference to an of construction when it fits the makeup of the sentence. For example, the earlier references to mathematics’ rules and measles’ effects would better be phrased: the rules of mathematics, the effects of measles.
OMITTED LETTERS: I’ve, it’s, don’t, rock ’n’ roll, ’tis the season to be jolly. He is a ne’er-do-well. Seecontractions in main section.
OMITTED FIGURES: The class of ’62. The Spirit of ’76. The ’20s.
PLURALS OF A SINGLE LETTER: Mind your p’s and q’s. He learned the three R’s and brought home a report card with four A’s and two B’s. The Oakland A’s won the pennant.
DO NOT USE: For plurals of numerals or multiple-letter combinations. Seeplurals.
brackets [ ]They cannot be transmitted over news wires. Use parentheses or recast the material.
colon (:)The most frequent use of a colon is at the end of a sentence to introduce lists, tabulations, texts, etc.
Capitalize the first word after a colon only if it is a proper noun or the start of a complete sentence: He promised this: The company will make good all the losses. But: There were three considerations: expense, time and feasibility.
EMPHASIS: The colon often can be effective in giving emphasis: He had only one hobby: eating.
LISTINGS: Use the colon in such listings as time elapsed (1:31:07.2), time of day (8:31 p.m.), biblical and legal citations (2 Kings 2:14; Missouri Code 3:245-260).
DIALOGUE: Use a colon for dialogue. In coverage of a trial, for example:
Bailey: What were you doing the night of the 19th?
Mason: I refuse to answer that.
Q AND A: The colon is used for question-and-answer interviews:
Q: Did you strike him?
A: Indeed I did.
INTRODUCING QUOTATIONS: Use a comma to introduce a direct quotation of one sentence that remains within a paragraph. Use a colon to introduce longer quotations within a paragraph and to end all paragraphs that introduce a paragraph of quoted material.
PLACEMENT WITH QUOTATION MARKS: Colons go outside quotation marks unless they are part of the quotation itself.
MISCELLANEOUS: Do not combine a dash and a colon.
comma (,)The following guidelines treat some of the most frequent questions about the use of commas. Additional guidelines on specialized uses are provided in separate entries such as dates and scores.
For detailed guidance, consult the punctuation section in the back of Webster’s New World Dictionary.
IN A SERIES: Use commas to separate elements in a series, but do not put a comma before the conjunction in a simple series: The flag is red, white and blue. He would nominate Tom, Dick or Harry.
Put a comma before the concluding conjunction in a series, however, if an integral element of the series requires a conjunction: I had orange juice, toast, and ham and eggs for breakfast.
Use a comma also before the concluding conjunction in a complex series of phrases: The main points to consider are whether the athletes are skillful enough to compete, whether they have the stamina to endure the training, and whether they have the proper mental attitude.
See thedash and semicolon entries for cases when elements of a series contain internal commas.
WITH EQUAL ADJECTIVES: Use commas to separate a series of adjectives equal in rank. If the commas could be replaced by the word and without changing the sense, the adjectives are equal: a thoughtful, precise manner; a dark, dangerous street.
Use no comma when the last adjective before a noun outranks its predecessors because it is an integral element of a noun phrase, which is the equivalent of a single noun: a cheap fur coat (the noun phrase is fur coat); the old oaken bucket; a new, blue spring bonnet.
WITH NONESSENTIAL CLAUSES: A nonessential clause must be set off by commas. An essential clause must not be set off from the rest of a sentence by commas.
See theessential clauses, nonessential clauses entry in the main section.
WITH NONESSENTIAL PHRASES: A nonessential phrase must be set off by commas. An essential phrase must not be set off from the rest of a sentence by commas.
See theessential phrases, nonessential phrases entry in the main section.
WITH INTRODUCTORY CLAUSES AND PHRASES: A comma is used to separate an introductory clause or phrase from the main clause: When he had tired of the mad pace of New York, he moved to Dubuque.
The comma may be omitted after short introductory phrases if no ambiguity would result: During the night he heard many noises.
But use the comma if its omission would slow comprehension: On the street below, the curious gathered.
WITH CONJUNCTIONS: When a conjunction such as and, but or for links two clauses that could stand alone as separate sentences, use a comma before the conjunction in most cases: She was glad she had looked, for a man was approaching the house.
As a rule of thumb, use a comma if the subject of each clause is expressly stated: We are visiting Washington, and we also plan a side trip to Williamsburg. We visited Washington, and our senator greeted us personally. But no comma when the subject of the two clauses is the same and is not repeated in the second: We are visiting Washington and plan to see the White House.
The comma may be dropped if two clauses with expressly stated subjects are short. In general, however, favor use of a comma unless a particular literary effect is desired or if it would distort the sense of a sentence.
INTRODUCING DIRECT QUOTES: Use a comma to introduce a complete one-sentence quotation within a paragraph: Wallace said, “She spent six months in Argentina and came back speaking English with a Spanish accent.” But use a colon to introduce quotations of more than one sentence. Seecolon.
Do not use a comma at the start of an indirect or partial quotation: He said the victory put him “firmly on the road to a first-ballot nomination.”
BEFORE ATTRIBUTION: Use a comma instead of a period at the end of a quote that is followed by attribution: “Rub my shoulders,” Miss Cawley suggested.
Do not use a comma, however, if the quoted statement ends with a question mark or exclamation point: “Why should I?” he asked.
WITH HOMETOWNS AND AGES: Use a comma to set off an individual’s hometown when it is placed in apposition to a name: Mary Richards, Minneapolis, and Maude Findlay, Tuckahoe, N.Y., were there.
If an individual’s age is used, set it off by commas: Maude Findlay, 48, Tuckahoe, N.Y., was present.
WITH PARTY AFFILIATION, ACADEMIC DEGREES, RELIGIOUS AFFILIATIONS: See separate entries under each of these terms.
NAMES OF STATES AND NATIONS USED WITH CITY NAMES: His journey will take him from Dublin, Ireland, to Fargo, N.D., and back. The Selma, Ala., group saw the governor.
Use parentheses, however, if a state name is inserted within a proper name: The Huntsville (Ala.) Times.
WITH YES AND NO: Yes, I will be there.
IN DIRECT ADDRESS: Mother, I will be home late. No, sir, I did not take it.
SEPARATING SIMILAR WORDS: Use a comma to separate duplicated words that otherwise would be confusing: What the problem is, is not clear.
IN LARGE FIGURES: Use a comma for most figures higher than 999. The major exceptions are: street addresses (1234 Main St.), broadcast frequencies (1460 kilohertz), room numbers, serial numbers, telephone numbers, and years (1876). See separate entries under these headings.
PLACEMENT WITH QUOTES: Commas always go inside quotation marks.
compound adjectivesSee the hyphen entry.
dash (—)Follow these guidelines:
ABRUPT CHANGE: Use dashes to denote an abrupt change in thought in a sentence or an emphatic pause: We will fly to Paris in June — if I get a raise. Smith offered a plan — it was unprecedented — to raise revenues.
SERIES WITHIN A PHRASE: When a phrase that otherwise would be set off by commas contains a series of words that must be separated by commas, use dashes to set off the full phrase: He listed the qualities — intelligence, humor, conservatism, independence — that he liked in an executive.
ATTRIBUTION: Use a dash before an author’s or composer’s name at the end of a quotation: “Who steals my purse steals trash.” — Shakespeare.
NEW YORK (AP) — The city is broke.
IN LISTS: Dashes should be used to introduce individual sections of a list. Capitalize the first word following the dash. Use periods, not semicolons, at the end of each section. Example: Jones gave the following reasons:
—He never ordered the package.
—If he did, it didn’t come.
—If it did, he sent it back.
WITH SPACES: Put a space on both sides of a dash in all uses except the start of a paragraph and sports agate summaries.
LOCATION ON KEYBOARDS: On most manual typewriters, the dash must be indicated by striking the hyphen key twice. On most video display terminals, however, there is a separate key that should be used to provide the unique dash symbol with one keystroke.
ellipsis ( ... )In general, treat an ellipsis as a three-letter word, constructed with three periods and two spaces, as shown here.
Use an ellipsis to indicate the deletion of one or more words in condensing quotes, texts, and documents. Be especially careful to avoid deletions that would distort the meaning.
Brief examples of how to use ellipses are provided after guidelines are given. More extensive examples, drawn from the speech in which President Nixon announced his resignation, are in the sections below marked CONDENSATION EXAMPLE and QUOTATIONS.
SPACING REQUIREMENTS: In some computer editing systems the thin space must be used between the periods of the ellipsis to prevent them from being placed on two different lines when they are sent through a computer that handles hyphenation and justification.
Leave one regular space — never a thin — on both sides of an ellipsis: I ... tried to do what was best.
PUNCTUATION GUIDELINES: If the words that precede an ellipsis constitute a grammatically complete sentence, either in the original or in the condensation, place a period at the end of the last word before the ellipsis. Follow it with a regular space and an ellipsis: I no longer have a strong enough political base. ...
When the grammatical sense calls for a question mark, exclamation point, comma or colon, the sequence is word, punctuation mark, regular space, ellipsis: Will you come? ...
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.
CONDENSATION EXAMPLE: Here is an example of how the spacing and punctuation guidelines would be applied in condensing President Nixon’s resignation announcement:
Good evening. ...
In all the decisions I have made in my public life, I have always tried to do what was best for the nation. ...
... However, it has become evident to me that I no longer have a strong enough political base in Congress.
... As long as there was a base, I felt strongly that it was necessary to see the constitutional process through to its conclusion, that to do otherwise would be ... a dangerously destabilizing precedent for the future.
QUOTATIONS: In writing a story, do not use ellipses at the beginning and end of direct quotes:
“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.
HESITATION: An ellipsis also may be used to indicate a pause or hesitation in speech, or a thought that the speaker or writer does not complete. Substitute a dash for this purpose, however, if the context uses ellipses to indicate that words actually spoken or written have been deleted.
SPECIAL EFFECTS: Ellipses also may be used to separate individual items within a paragraph of show business gossip or similar material. Use periods after items that are complete sentences.
exclamation point (!)Follow these guidelines:
EMPHATIC EXPRESSIONS: Use the mark to express a high degree of surprise, incredulity or other strong emotion.
AVOID OVERUSE: Use a comma after mild interjections. End mildly exclamatory sentences with a period.
PLACEMENT WITH QUOTES: Place the mark inside quotation marks when it is part of the quoted material: “How wonderful!” he exclaimed. “Never!” she shouted.
Place the mark outside quotation marks when it is not part of the quoted material: I hated reading Spenser’s “Faerie Queene”!
MISCELLANEOUS: Do not use a comma or a period after the exclamation mark:
Wrong: “Halt!”, the corporal cried.
Right: “Halt!” the corporal cried.
hyphen (-)Hyphens are joiners. Use them to avoid ambiguity or to form a single idea from two or more words.
AVOID AMBIGUITY: Use a hyphen whenever ambiguity would result if it were omitted: The president will speak to small-business men. (Businessmen normally is one word. But the president will speak to small businessmen is unclear.)
Others: He recovered his health. He re-covered the leaky roof.
COMPOUND MODIFIERS: When a compound modifier — two or more words that express a single concept — precedes a noun, use hyphens to link all the words in the compound except the adverb very and all adverbs that end in -ly: a first-quarter touchdown, a bluish-green dress, a full-time job, a well-known man, a better-qualified woman, a know-it-all attitude, a very good time, an easily remembered rule.
Many combinations that are hyphenated before a noun are not hyphenated when they occur after a noun: The team scored in the first quarter. The dress, a bluish green, was attractive on her. She works full time. His attitude suggested that he knew it all.
But when a modifier that would be hyphenated before a noun occurs instead after a form of the verb to be, the hyphen usually must be retained to avoid confusion: The man is well-known. The woman is quick-witted. The children are soft-spoken. The play is second-rate.
The principle of using a hyphen to avoid confusion explains why no hyphen is required with very and -ly words. Readers can expect them to modify the word that follows. But if a combination such as little-known man were not hyphenated, the reader could logically be expecting little to be followed by a noun, as in little man. Instead, the reader encountering little known would have to back up mentally and make the compound connection on his own.
TWO-THOUGHT COMPOUNDS: serio-comic, socio-economic.
COMPOUND PROPER NOUNS AND ADJECTIVES: Use a hyphen to designate dual heritage: Italian-American, Mexican-American.
No hyphen, however, for French Canadian or Latin American.
PREFIXES AND SUFFIXES: See theprefixes and suffixes entries, and separate entries for the most frequently used prefixes and suffixes.
AVOID DUPLICATED VOWELS, TRIPLED CONSONANTS: Examples: anti-intellectual, pre-empt, shell-like.
WITH NUMERALS: Use a hyphen to separate figures inodds, ratios, scores, some fractions and some vote tabulations. See examples in entries under these headings.
When large numbers must be spelled out, use a hyphen to connect a word ending in -y to another word: twenty-one, fifty-five, etc.
SUSPENSIVE HYPHENATION: The form: He received a 10- to 20-year sentence in prison.
parentheses ( )In general, use parentheses around logos, as shown in the datelines entry, but otherwise be sparing with them.
Parentheses are jarring to the reader. Because they do not appear on some news service printers, there is also the danger that material inside them may be misinterpreted.
The temptation to use parentheses is a clue that a sentence is becoming contorted. Try to write it another way. If a sentence must contain incidental material, then commas or two dashes are frequently more effective. Use these alternatives whenever possible.
There are occasions, however, when parentheses are the only effective means of inserting necessary background or reference information. When they are necessary, follow these guidelines:
WITHIN QUOTATIONS: If parenthetical information inserted in a direct quotation is at all sensitive, place an editor’s note under a dash at the bottom of a story alerting copy desks to what was inserted.
PUNCTUATION: Place a period outside a closing parenthesis if the material inside is not a sentence (such as this fragment).
(An independent parenthetical sentence such as this one takes a period before the closing parenthesis.)
When a phrase placed in parentheses (this one is an example) might normally qualify as a complete sentence but is dependent on the surrounding material, do not capitalize the first word or end with a period.
MATERIAL FROM OTHER AREAS: If a story contains information from outside the datelined city, put the material in parentheses only if the correspondent in the datelined community was cut off from incoming communications. Seedateline selection.
INSERTIONS IN A PROPER NAME: Use parentheses if a state name or similar information is inserted within a proper name: The Huntsville (Ala.) Times. But use commas if no proper name is involved: The Selma, Ala., group saw the governor.
NEVER USED: Do not use parentheses to denote a political figure’s party affiliation and jurisdiction. Instead, set them off with commas, as shown underparty affiliation.
Do not use (cq) or similar notation to indicate that an unusual spelling or term is correct. Include the confirmation in an editor’s note at the top of a story.
periods (.)Follow these guidelines:
END OF DECLARATIVE SENTENCE: The stylebook is finished.
END OF A MILDLY IMPERATIVE SENTENCE: Shut the door.
Use an exclamation point if greater emphasis is desired: Be careful!
END OF SOME RHETORICAL QUESTIONS: A period is preferable if a statement is more a suggestion than a question: Why don’t we go.
END OF AN INDIRECT QUESTION: He asked what the score was.
MANY ABBREVIATIONS: For guidelines, see theabbreviations and acronyms entry. For the form of frequently used abbreviations, see the entry under the full name, abbreviation, acronym or term.
INITIALS: John F. Kennedy, T.S. Eliot (No space between T. and S., to prevent them from being placed on two lines in typesetting.)
Abbreviations using only the initials of a name do not take periods: JFK, LBJ.
ENUMERATIONS: After numbers or letters in enumerating elements of a summary: 1. Wash the car. 2. Clean the basement. Or: A. Punctuate properly. B. Write simply.
PLACEMENT WITH QUOTATION MARKS: Periods always go inside quotation marks. Seequotation marks.
question mark (?)Follow these guidelines:
END OF A DIRECT QUESTION: Who started the riot?
Did he ask who started the riot? (The sentence as a whole is a direct question despite the indirect question at the end.)
You started the riot? (A question in the form of a declarative statement.)
INTERPOLATED QUESTION: You told me — Did I hear you correctly? — that you started the riot.
MULTIPLE QUESTION: Use a single question mark at the end of the full sentence:
Did you hear him say, “What right have you to ask about the riot?”
Did he plan the riot, employ assistants, and give the signal to begin?
Or, to cause full stops and throw emphasis on each element, break into separate sentences: Did he plan the riot? Employ assistants? Give the signal to begin?
CAUTION: Do not use question marks to indicate the end of indirect questions:
He asked who started the riot. To ask why the riot started is unnecessary. I want to know what the cause of the riot was. How foolish it is to ask what caused the riot.
QUESTION AND ANSWER FORMAT: Do not use quotation marks. Paragraph each speaker’s words:
Q: Where did you keep it?
A: In a little tin box.
PLACEMENT WITH QUOTATION MARKS: Inside or outside, depending on the meaning:
Who wrote “Gone With the Wind”?
He asked, “How long will it take?”
MISCELLANEOUS: The question mark supersedes the comma that normally is used when supplying attribution for a quotation: “Who is there?” she asked.
quotation marks (" ")The basic guidelines for open-quote marks (") and close-quote marks ("):
FOR DIRECT QUOTATIONS: To surround the exact words of a speaker or writer when reported in a story:
“I have no intention of staying,” he replied.
“I do not object,” he said, “to the tenor of the report.”
Franklin said, “A penny saved is a penny earned.”
A speculator said the practice is “too conservative for inflationary times.”
RUNNING QUOTATIONS: If a full paragraph of quoted material is followed by a paragraph that continues the quotation, do not put close-quote marks at the end of the first paragraph. Do, however, put open-quote marks at the start of the second paragraph. Continue in this fashion for any succeeding paragraphs, using close-quote marks only at the end of the quoted material.
If a paragraph does not start with quotation marks but ends with a quotation that is continued in the next paragraph, do not use close-quote marks at the end of the introductory paragraph if the quoted material constitutes a full sentence. Use close-quote marks, however, if the quoted material does not constitute a full sentence. For example:
He said, “I am shocked and horrified by the incident.
“I am so horrified, in fact, that I will ask for the death penalty.”
But: He said he was “shocked and horrified by the incident.”
“I am so horrified, in fact, that I will ask for the death penalty,” he said.
DIALOGUE OR CONVERSATION: Each person’s words, no matter how brief, are placed in a separate paragraph, with quotation marks at the beginning and the end of each person’s speech:
“Will you go?”
NOT IN Q-and-A: Quotations marks are not required in formats that identify questions and answers by Q: and A:. See thequestion mark entry for example.
NOT IN TEXTS: Quotation marks are not required in full texts, condensed texts or textual excerpts. Seeellipsis.
COMPOSITION TITLES: See thecomposition titles entry for guidelines on the use of quotation marks in book titles, movie titles, etc.
NICKNAMES: See thenicknames entry.
IRONY: Put quotation marks around a word or words used in an ironical sense: The “debate” turned into a free-for-all.
UNFAMILIAR TERMS: A word or words being introduced to readers may be placed in quotation marks on first reference:
Broadcast frequencies are measured in “kilohertz.”
Do not put subsequent references to kilohertz in quotation marks.
See theforeign words entry.
AVOID UNNECESSARY FRAGMENTS: Do not use quotation marks to report a few ordinary words that a speaker or writer has used:
Wrong: The senator said he would “go home to Michigan” if he lost the election.
Right: The senator said he would go home to Michigan if he lost the election.
PARTIAL QUOTES: When a partial quote is used, do not put quotation marks around words that the speaker could not have used.
Suppose the individual said, “I am horrified at your slovenly manners.”
Wrong: She said she “was horrified at their slovenly manners.”
Right: She said she was horrified at their “slovenly manners.”
Better when practical: Use the full quote.
QUOTES WITHIN QUOTES: Alternate between double quotation marks (“ or ”) and single marks (‘ or ’):
She said, “I quote from his letter, ‘I agree with Kipling that “the female of the species is more deadly than the male,” but the phenomenon is not an unchangeable law of nature,’ a remark he did not explain.”
Use three marks together if two quoted elements end at the same time: She said, “He told me, ‘I love you.’ ”
PLACEMENT WITH OTHER PUNCTUATION: Follow these long- established printers’ rules:
—The period and the comma always go within the quotation marks.
—The dash, the semicolon, the question mark and the exclamation point go within the quotation marks when they apply to the quoted matter only. They go outside when they apply to the whole sentence.
semicolon (;)In general, use the semicolon to indicate a greater separation of thought and information than a comma can convey but less than the separation that a period implies.
The basic guidelines:
TO CLARIFY A SERIES: Use semicolons to separate elements of a series when individual segments contain material that also must be set off by commas:
He leaves a son, John Smith of Chicago; three daughters, Jane Smith of Wichita, Kan., Mary Smith of Denver, and Susan, wife of William Kingsbury of Boston; and a sister, Martha, wife of Robert Warren of Omaha, Neb.
Note that the semicolon is used before the final and in such a series.
Another application of this principle may be seen in the cross-references at the end of entries in this book. Because some entries themselves have a comma, a semicolon is used to separate references to multiple entries, as in: See thefelony, misdemeanor entry; pardon, parole, probation; and prison, jail.
See thedash entry for a different type of connection that uses dashes to avoid multiple commas.
TO LINK INDEPENDENT CLAUSES: Use semicolon when a coordinating conjunction such as and, but or for is not present: The package was due last week; it arrived today.
If a coordinating conjunction is present, use a semicolon before it only if extensive punctuation also is required in one or more of the individual clauses: They pulled their boats from the water, sandbagged the retaining walls, and boarded up the windows; but even with these precautions, the island was hard-hit by the hurricane.
Unless a particular literary effect is desired, however, the better approach in these circumstances is to break the independent clauses into separate sentences.
PLACEMENT WITH QUOTES: Place semicolons outside quotation marks.