APOSTROPHE – Use an apostrophe to denote possession. Singular and plural nouns not ending in s take an apostrophe and s (Mike’s car). Plural nouns ending in s take an apostrophe alone (peoples’ lives). Singular nouns and names ending in s (or an s sound) take an apostrophe and s (Chris’s house; Blitz’s restaurant; witness’s statement). Names or words ending with an –eez sound only have an apostrophe (Moses’ story; Socrates’ play).
BRACKETS – Use brackets for information that is inserted to clarify, or for translations.
The year of the flood (1969) had record-breaking rainfall.
It was five centimetres (two inches) long.
COLON – Use a colon to introduce an item or series of items, or a question. It stands in place of the word “namely”
You need the following ingredients: eggs, sugar, butter, and flour.
These are the rules:
1. No talking in the library;
2. Put your books back on the cart; and,
3. Check out books using your library card.
An important question is: What does the future hold?
COMMA – Use a comma after the next-to-last item in a series to avoid confusion.
Example: Breakfast was eggs, toast, bacon, and coffee (not bacon and coffee).
DASH – Use dashes to set off mid-sentence lists punctuated by commas or when use of commas would create confusion. Also use a dash in course titles.
The meeting will discuss residents’ concerns – noise, pollution, and property values – before the formal vote takes place.
The cookies – chocolate chip and oatmeal – are baked fresh daily.
3300K – Strategy, not 3300K: Strategy.
ELLIPSIS – Use when something has been edited out of a direct quotation. It is unnecessary at the beginning or end of a quotation, but necessary when a part of the middle is missing. An ellipsis is three spaced periods and has a space at the end. An ellipsis at the end of a sentence has four periods with no space between the period and the last word.
The decision … was not well-received.
We must work hard and be better….
INITIALS – There are no spaces between initials.
PERIODS – There should only be a single space after periods. Put periods inside quotation marks.
He rode his bike to the store. Then he brought the groceries home to his mother.
The paper is entitled, “Leadership in the 20th century.”
QUOTATION MARKS – Quotation marks should always be outside other punctuation with the exception of question marks, dashes, semicolons, and exclamation marks that are not part of the quotation. Use double quotation marks, except for in headlines or quotes within a quote. For quotes within a quote, single quotation marks are used. Use quotation marks for words used ironically. Also use quotation marks around titles of papers and book chapters.
“I heard him say, ‘He started it,’ when accused of starting the fight,” said Smith.
The “friendly” soccer game ended with players enraged.
SEMICOLON – Use a semicolon to join two or more ideas in a sentence that are closely related, but could stand on their own as sentences. Also use them to separate elements that contain commas. Semicolons go outside quotation marks.
I have a big test tomorrow; I can’t go out tonight.
This week’s winners are John Smith from Toronto, Ont.; Diane King from Phoenix, Ariz.; and Matt Johnson from Reno, Nev.
Police cornered “the villain”; it was a teenager wearing a mask.