Colon / Semicolon

Use a colon after an independent clause to introduce a series or a list, amplification or an illustrative quotation. A colon indicates that what follows is related to the preceding clause.

Use a semicolon to divide the two parts of a compound sentence (two independent clauses) when the clauses are not connected by a conjunction. The semicolon is used to indicate a greater separation of thought than a comma but less than the separation that a period implies.

When items in a series are long and complex or involve internal punctuation, they should be separated by semicolons for the sake of clarity.

A semicolon is also used to connect two independent clauses that use a connecting word such as therefore or however.


Use commas to separate elements in a series, but not before the conjunction if it is a simple series.

Put a comma before the concluding conjunction in a series if an integral element of the series requires a conjunction.

Use a comma before the concluding conjunction in a complex series of phrases

Enclose parenthetical expressions between commas. Also, treat i.e., etc., and e.g. as parenthetical and punctuate accordingly.


Use dashes to denote an abrupt change in thought in a sentence or an emphatic pause. Spaces are required on both sides of dashes.

An em dash (longer than a hyphen) can be inserted by using the following shortcut keystrokes: Ctrl, Alt, Num Lock, Hyphen.

Exclamation Mark

Avoid overuse of the exclamation point. Use the mark to express a high degree of surprise, incredulity or other strong emotion.


Words are joined by hyphens when used to form an adverbial or adjectival phrase. Exceptions to this rule are the adverb “very” and all adverbs that end in “ly.”


Use semicolons to separate the items in a list if the items themselves have include commas.

Use numbers in a vertical list only when the sequence matters.

Those attending the play should:

  1. Arrive on campus by 3:15 p.m.
  2. Register at the hospitality desk.
  3. Assemble at the University Theatre by 4:15 p.m.

In lists of bulleted items, all of the items should be followed by periods.


The dentist recommended that all of his patients:

His credentials were impressive:


Write percents as one word in body copy. Use the % symbol for charts, captions, etc.

Question Mark

The guidelines for using a question mark are as follows:

Quotation Marks

Use curled quote marks, not straight marks. Commas and periods always go inside quotation marks. Colons and semicolons go outside quotation marks. For question marks and exclamation points, if the punctuation is part of the quotation, put it inside the quotation marks; if it’s not part of the quotation, put it outside the quotation marks.

Use quotation marks:

Right: To quote Goethe, “A clever man commits no minor blunders.”
Right: The “free” food was included with the $1,000 ticket.