Style Guide -- Punctuation
Office of Marketing and Communications

UC Style Guide


Serial Comma

Use a comma before "and" or "or" in a series of three or more items:
  • The flag is red, white, and blue.
  • Is it animal, vegetable, or mineral?

Note: When items in a series contain internal puctuation (e.g. commas), use semicolons in the same manner as described for the serial comma:

  • The final tally of participants was UC, 17; Becker College, 12; and Notre Dame, 7.  

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Use a hyphen whenever it will help to avoid ambiguity:
  • He re-covered his leaky roof.
  • He recovered his health.
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 "very" and all adverbs that end in "ly":
  • a first-quarter touchdown
  • a bluish-green dress
  • a full-time job
  • a well-known man
  • an on-ground program
  • a very good time
  • an easily remembered song
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 appeared to be a bluish green.
  • She works full time.

Use a hyphen in the word "e-mail"; however, do not use a hyphen in the word "online":

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Use the ampersand (&) in place of "and" only in corporate names. (Ex: Pratt & Whitney)

Quotation Rules

The comma is always placed inside the quotation mark:
  • "Gerald," he said, "let's organize."
The period is always placed inside the quotation mark:
  • "Pro football is like nuclear warfare. There are no winners, only survivors." (Frank Gifford)
Place the colon, semicolon, exclamation point, and question mark inside the quotation mark when it is part of the quoted material; otherwise, it should be place outside.
  • Pilate asked, "What's truth?"
  • What is the meaning of the term "half truth"?

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Brackets and Parentheses

Place the period inside the parentheses or brackets when the enclosed material is an independent sentence constituting no part of the preceding sentence. Otherwise, it should be placed outside the paretheses or brackets.
  • [There was a comment in the suggestion box.]
  • He arrived at noon (just in time for lunch).



Joe Perry '90, M.A.
Director of Creative Services
and Senior Writer
Champlin House, Room 207

(315) 792-3026
(315) 792-3006
1600 Burrstone Road | Utica, NY 13502