Use when part of a formal name (Procter & Gamble). Otherwise, spell out (and).
Do not use to make a word plural. Usages include denoting possession and making contractions.
Brackets ([ ])
Avoid if possible. Use parentheses instead.
Use to introduce lists, add emphasis and in dialogue. IMPORTANT: A complete sentence or independent clause MUST come before the colon. Capitalize the first word after a colon only if it is a proper noun or the first word of a sentence.
Use commas to separate elements in a series, but do not put a comma before the conjunction in a simple series (also known as the Harvard, Oxford or serial comma). Example: The flag is red, white and blue.
- Exception: Use a comma before the conjunction in a complex series of phrases. Example: The school board’s biggest concerns are the impact of the state’s revenue projections, the expiration of federal stimulus dollars, and receiving less than flat funding from the county.
There are two types of dashes: the en dash and the em dash.
- En dashes (–) are longer than hyphens but shorter than traditional dashes, called em dashes. En dashes are used to indicate a range of numbers, dates, game scores, pages, etc. Example: Abraham Lincoln (1809–65) was president during the Civil War (1861–65).
- In Word, make an en dash by pressing CTRL and the hyphen (-) on your 10-key pad. On the Web, en dashes need to be coded, so you might choose to use a hyphen instead. Put spaces on both sides of an en dash only if it helps with line breaks.
- Em dashes (—) are used to a) indicate an abrupt change in thought or an emphatic pause within a sentence, b) set off a parenthetical element that explains or amplifies, c) separate a noun or series of nouns from a clause summarizing them or d) denote an open range, such as a date range with no ending date. Example: The Three Stooges —Larry, Curly and Moe—sat down for dinner. Mary had a little lamb—not that she didn’t prefer a dog—whose fleece was white as snow.
- In Word, make an em dash by pressing CTRL+ALT and the hyphen (-) on your 10-key pad. On the Web, you should use two hyphens (--). Put spaces on both sides of an em dash only if it helps with line breaks.
Ellipsis (… )
In general, treat an ellipsis as a three-letter word, putting a space on both sides.
Exclamation point (!)
Use sparingly, and never put more than one exclamation mark at the end of a sentence.