Public Affairs Office
PunctuationCommas, periods, and other punctuation such as question marks and exclamation marks are placed inside quotation marks:
We will examine "otherness," the foreign, and the "mysterious."
Punctuation that follows words in italics or bold face retains the style of the immediately preceding word.
Commas: we use the serial comma (also known as the Harvard comma): place a comma before "and" in a series of three or more items:
algebra, number theory, and computational complexity.
The serial comma is also used in an "or" series:
she may major in psychology, biology, or Spanish.
Hyphens: when you have an "-ly" adverb modifying an adjective, do not hyphenate between the "-ly" adverb and the adjective:
academically oriented program, newly furnished office
freshly-painted walls, densely-written text
Compound adjectives: are usually hyphenated before a noun, especially if it improves clarity:
on-campus housing, part-time job, fourteenth-century fresco (spell out centuries if space permits).
Do not hyphenate these compounds if they stand alone:
He lives off campus. This job is only part time. Giotto was born in the thirteenth century.
Semicolons and colons: use a semicolon in a series of items if one or more of the items in the list contains a comma:
You should remember to pack an umbrella, in case it rains; a sweater, if it's cold; and a warm drink.
A semicolon links two closely related elements:
Sokol published this essay in Social Text last year and immediately exposed it as a hoax; the aftershocks are still being felt.
A colon is used to link two elements of which the second illustrates or amplifies the first:
His second book sold much better than the first: the publisher shipped 400,000 copies the first month alone.
Quotation marks: semicolons and colons are placed outside of quotes. Example:
He was called the "King of Portland"; his royalty was doubted by some, however.
Exclamation marks: it is always better to write forcefully to convey enthusiasm rather than to load your copy with exclamation marks.