Public Affairs


A. Commas, Semicolons, Colons, Periods

  1. Do not use a comma before the conjunction in a simple series. Put a comma before the concluding conjunction in a series, however, if an integral element of the series requires a conjunction.
    1. The College of Health, Education and Human Development
    2. I had orange juice, toast, and ham and eggs for breakfast.
  2. Place a comma after digits signifying thousands, except when reference is made to temperature, SAT scores or years as part of dates.
    1. 1,150 students, but 1100 degrees, and an SAT score of 1143
  3. Follow a statement that introduces a direct quotation of one or more paragraphs with a colon. Also use a colon after as follows.
  4. Transitional words such as to wit, namely, i.e., e.g. and viz, should be immediately preceded by a comma or semicolon and followed by a comma.
  5. When listing names with cities or states, punctuate as follows:
    1. The University is within the Clemson, S.C., city limits.
    2. Joe Turner, Clemson, is president of the Clemson University Foundation.
    3. Joe Turner of Clemson is president of the Clemson University Foundation.
  6. When writing a date, place a comma between the day and the year as well as after the year.
    1. January 23, 2003, was cold and snowy.
    2. Tuesday, January 28, was sunny.
  7. Do not place a comma between the month and year when the day is not mentioned.
    1. January 2003
  8. 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.
    1. Please call Mr. A. Neill Cameron Jr. for the funding report.
    2. Contact Bruce W. Ransom II, coordinator, for further information.
  9. If you have a phrase in 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.
  10. No word space should be used between the initials of an abbreviation or a person’s name.
    1. U.S., J.B. White

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

B. Apostrophes

  1. Use only an apostrophe when making possessive a singular proper name ending in s.
    1. Achilles’ heel
    2. James’ speech
    3. Dickens’ novels
  2. In making the plural of figures and multiple letters, do not use an apostrophe.
    1. The 1980s are here.
    2. Two CEUs
  3. In making the plural of single letters, use the apostrophe.
    1. Mind your p’s and q’s.
  4. Punctuate years of college classes with an apostrophe except in cases where the century is uncertain.
    1. Class of ’76
    2. Debbie DuBose ’75
    3. B.M. Aull 1896 (not ’96, which could refer to class of 1996)
    4. William G. Adams 1900 (not ’00, which could refer to class of 2000)
  5. Bachelor’s and master’s degrees should always be written with an ’s. Never write masters’ degrees, for example. (There is no possessive for associate degree.)
  6. Use primes (keyboard apostrophe and quotes) to designate inches, feet and navigational notation.
    1. 12", 12'
    2. 67°03'16

C. Hyphens

  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.
    1. non-German
    2. nontechnical
  3. Do not place a hyphen between the prefixes pre, post, semi, anti, multi, etc., and their nouns or adjectives, except before proper nouns or when two vowels with no hyphen separating them would be unclear.
    1. predentistry
    2. electro-optical, but preindustrial
    3. pro-American
  4. Do not place a hyphen between the prefix sub and the word to which it is attached.
    1. 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 preceding a noun. Many combinations that are hyphenated before a noun are not hyphenated when they occur after a noun, except when they occur after a form of the verb to be.
    1. well-built engine
    2. The engine is well-built.
    3. a bluish-green dress
    4. The dress, a bluish green, was attractive on her.
  7. Do not use a hyphen with very and –ly word
    1. a very good time
    2. an easily remembered rule
  8. Hyphenate a compound in which one component is a number and the other is a noun or adjective.
    1. 30-mile run
    2. 10-year-old child
    3. 12,000-square-foot building
  9. Use your dictionary to determine whether to hyphenate frequently used compound words. Note that hyphenated words can be created for the sake of clarity.
  10. Whenever possible, avoid the hyphenation of proper names when breaking text lines.

D. Dashes

  1. Use an en dash with no extra space before or after to indicate continuing (or inclusive) numbers, dates, times or reference numbers.
    1. 1968–82 but from 1968 to 1982 (never from 1968–82)
    2. May–June 1967 from May to June 1967
    3. 10 a.m.–5 p.m. between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.
    4. pp. 38–45 from pages 38 to 45
  2. Use an em dash with an extra space before and after:
    1. to denote a sudden break in thought that causes an abrupt change in sentence structure.
      1. Consistency — that hobgoblin of little minds.
    2. in defining or enumerating complementary elements.
      1. The influence of three musicians — Mozart, Bach and Beethoven — was of great importance in his development as a musician
    3. before an author’s or composer’s name at the end of a quotation
      1. “Who steals my purse steals trash.” — Shakespeare.

E. 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.
  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 if the quote is set in smaller type and set off from the text by a space.
  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.
    1. Emerson replied nervously, “There is no reason to inform the president.”
    2. He had not defined the term “categorical imperative.”
    3. A “zinc,” or line engraving, will be made from the sketch.
    4. Kego had three objections to “Filmore’s Summer”: It was contrived; the characters were flat; the dialogue was unrealistic.
    5. The man cried, “They stole my new car!”
  5. Use editor’s brackets, not parentheses, to set off editorial remarks within direct quotations
    1. “Johnson saw it [the war] as a personal test of wills.”

F. Ellipses

  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 ( ... ).
    1. I … tried to do what was best.
    2. Will you come? …
  2. When the grammatical sense calls for a question mark, exclamation point, comma or colon, the sequence is word, punctuation mark, regular space, ellipsis, e.g., “Will you come? ...”
  3. 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.
  4. In writing a story, do not use ellipses at the beginning and end of direct quotes that form complete sentences.
    1. “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.

G. Bullets

1. Vertical lists are best introduced by a grammatically complete sentence followed by a colon. No periods are required at the end of entries unless at least one entry is a complete sentence, in which case a period is necessary at the end of each entry.

A university can be judged by three measures:
• The quality of its students
• The quality of it faculty
• The quality of its infrastructure
2.  If a list completes the sentence that introduces it, items begin with lowercase letters, commas or semicolons (if individual items contain commas) are used to separate each item, and the last item ends with a period. Note that the introductory clause does not end with a colon.

A university can be judged by
• the quality of its students,
• the quality of its faculty,
• the quality of its infrastructure.
3.  Avoid mixing sentence and nonsentence items in a bulleted list.