- British use: no period if last letter is final letter of
word: Mr Rev. Dr Lieut. Lt Lat. Gk
- Canadian: generally omit period for all abbreviations consisting
of all upper case, or ending in upper case, letters (TV, MiG,
YMCA.), except place names, personal names, degrees and legal
- Hyphenate if the original was (Lt.-Gov. for Lieutenant-Governor;
but note Cdn style does not hyphenate that combination any longer).
- Acronyms (but not initialisms) are usually full or small
(but all) caps (NATO) unless they are formed from company names.
Stelco, Inco, Alcoa but RCA, IBM, CNCP, etc.
- Close up ampersands (R&D, S&L)
- Do not begin a sentence with an abbreviation that is a partial
word (Fig. 1), a number (14C) or lower case (t-score). Otherwise,
ok (VIP, Dr., FBI)
- Plurals: add an s. (Drs., IOUs,). If it is a single letter, or is lower
case, or would be confusing, or uses periods, add an 's (A's, pfd's, SOS's,
Ph.D.'s). Measures do not change (mi., ft.) and some are irregular
(pp, ff, cc.)
- Possessives: singular, add 's (FDR's); plural, add apostrophe
only (RNs' but Oakland A's winning streak).
Metric Symbols and Money
- Money: Can$10 or US$100 (no spaces if non-letter symbols
are present); but Fr 50 (space).
- Be consistent in ciphers. $50 to $500 but $50.00 to $499.95.
- Leave a space when the symbol is all letters (45 kg), but
no space if a non-letter is used 32°C, Can$10.
- A hyphen may be used for clarity: 35-mm film; however some
suggest that hyphenating adjectival use of number-symbol is inappropriate.
Therefore: a "2-inch (5 cm) line." Remember that metric
units have symbols, not abbreviations.
- Always maintain lower case roman type, even if rest of headline
is upper case.
- Imperial: leave space between the three elements of 100 sq.
- Do not use abbreviated titles without first name or initial:
Prof. A. Jones but Professor Jones
- The only exceptions: Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr., Jr. and Sr.
- Do not combine abbreviated titles with abbreviated academic
degrees or honours: Not Dr. A. Jones, M.D.
- Academic titles use periods; civil titles do not; all follow
the name and are preceded with a comma.
- Jim Smith, M.D., OBE.
- The Rev: Ok: the Reverend Mr. Brown, the Reverend H. L. Brown,
Rev. H. L Brown. Not: the Reverend Brown or Rev. Brown.
- Honorable: correct: The Hono(u)rable Frank Brown, Hon. Frank
- Junior. Jr. and Sr. are preceded by a comma. Do not tag a
Jr. if the first name or initial is not given.
Al Jones, Jr. or Dr. Al Jones, Jr. (but never Mr. Jones, Jr.
). Index as Jones, Al Jr.
- Word space between two or more initials.
- Saints: Before a saint, spell it out (Saint Mary), otherwise
abbreviate (St. Mary's Hospital). Apostles don't usually get
a Saint at all; and for proper names, check the preference of
the individual. French is hyphenated: Sainte-Marie.
- To determine if a title should be capitalized, try replacing it with an abbreviation. It will be clearer then: "He is secretary of the Lions' Club" -but not- "He is Secty of the Lions' Club." "I spoke with president Bush" - could be - " I spoke with Pres. Bush." If you could use an abbreviation, then it sould be capitalized when spelled out. Also, if you can preface it with "the" then it should not be capitalized: "He is [the] secretary of the Lions' Club."
- The President, the Pope and the King/Queen are usually capitalized when used alone and when they refer to a specific and obvious person. However, "the next president will want to meet whoever is pope at the time and discuss his appointment as king."
- Words forming part of legal name (Co., Inc, and Corp.) are
usually abbreviated, and may usually be omitted from most text.
- Government units never abbreviate corporation: Farm Credit
- Mary and Bill's home. Mary's and Bill's homes. 30 years'
service (or 30 years of service) 30 days' credit. Mind your p's
- Always add 's to singular nouns where the s sound is heard
(witch's, James's, Alex's) except ancient ones ending in -es
and -is (Jesus', Moses', Isis' which should be replaced with
the laws of Moses, the temple of Isis forms); also use final
apostrophe only in for conscience' sake, for righteousness' sake,
and appearance' sake and examples above (six days' work).
- Double possessives (the woman's son's toy), those with of
phrases (a friend of mine's contract), and with quotation marks
("Star Trek"'s central theme is...) should be recast.
- No space before or after (except poetry, when used to indicate
a line break: no space before, one space after).
- May be used to show two functions (so may a hyphen): Secretary/treasurer.
- When all the material inside (as here) is italic or
bold, so are the parentheses [this also is true for brackets].
- She has three children: Bill, Mary and Jane (not "her
children are: Bill, Mary and Jane."). Colons only follow
complete sentences ("Examples follow:", but not "Examples
- Restrictive (essential, or "that") clauses do not
use commas; non-restrictive (non-essential, or "which")
clauses do use commas (if the phrase can be deleted without changing
the meaning of the sentence, it is non-restrictive:
- Writers who know their craft will understand this.
- Writers, who work with words every day, should understand
- When a name or title can be removed (parenthetical effect),
it is non-restrictive and should be delimited:
- "President Bill Clinton said...," but "The
president, Bill Clinton, said."
- "John Fry's novel As I Said was published.." but
"John Fry's first novel, As I Said, was..."
- When one of a kind, set off with commas; if one of several,
- Incorrect: "The American magazine, Horizon, is..." (implies there is only one magazine in America.)
- "Julie's new film, Deathwatch, is..." is correct
if that is the only new film.
- "Mrs Thatcher and her husband, Dennis, went..." since Dennis is her only husband.
- "Mrs Thatcher and her son Bill went..." if Bill
is only one of her sons.
- After the year in a full date, or a state/province in combination
with a city:
- After January 1, 1994, all will be forgiven. He lived in
Akron, Ohio, for a while.
- Between duplicate words:
- They moved in, in March. Who he is, is anybody's guess. But
not with I had had the best idea.
- Between adjectives of the same weight that modify the same
noun (Test: Can you replace comma with "and"?)
- The big red house (Do you mean the big and red house, or
the big red one as opposed to the smaller red one?). He's from
New York's working-class lower East Side (No commas).
- Optional before "and" in a longer series (personal
preference: omit unless confusing).
- His children were Bill, Mary, twins Andrew and Bob, and Joe.
- Preceding quotations, unless the quotation is the subject,
object or complement of the sentence.
- He said, "Let us pray." She replied "Amen"
and bowed her head. They asked for "forgiveness and peace."
- With conjunctions, unless short and not likely to be confused.
- The went to town to buy a small, inexpensive car and trailer,
and returned home in a Winnebago.
- To replace missing words, especially "that", or
to separate balancing expressions:
- I am a Protestant; my wife, Catholic. What I mean is, she
is devout. Here today, gone tomorrow.
- Hyphen (-) between words.
- Do not hyphenate -ly or very word combinations:
A well-known man versus a very well known man.
- Hyphenate letter/number prefixes (I-beam, X-ray) but not
suffixes (Grade A).
- En dash (-) between dates, ranges of inclusive numerals (but
note -7° C to -3° C), and phrases like The News-Free
Guardian alliance; anti-blood-clotting devices, teddy bear-like,
Free Trade-Protectionist controversy.
- Em dash (-) between clauses, as parenthetical, or to represent
nil or unknown in a table. Also in summarizing, at the end of
a sentence, replacing a colon, often followed by all these-all
these are examples of the em dash. No space before of after.
- Two em dash (--) shows part of a word or name omission, as
in Dr. J--, or f-- you.
- Three em dash (---) shows full word or name omission; used
in bibliographies to show "same as previous entry."
- Small Caps are usually 80% the size of a standard capital letter.
- Use for A.M., P.M., A.D., B.C. (not AM, PM, AD, BC)
- Use for academic degrees: M.D., B.A. but reduce whole type
size for mixed: Ph.D.
- Use for Roman numerals, Charles IV.
- Consider for acronyms that are pronounced as words (NATO,
RAM), while retaining full caps for AFL-CIO, CPU, etc.
- Use for titles of works of art such as plays, books, newspapers,
magazines, motion pictures, paintings and statues (Titles of
shorter works and of parts of larger works, such as songs, arias,
chapters are enclosed in quotation marks or simply initial-capitalized.)
- Use for names in a lawsuit (Gibbons v. Ogden),
for words used as a word ("the term font has several
meanings"), and the scientific names of genera and species (Felis domestica). Not larger subdivisions: phyla, classes,
orders, families and tribes).
- Italicize v. (but not vs.), et seq., idem, infra,
passim, q.v., sic, supra and vide.
- Do not italicize e.g., i.e., vs., ibid., etc., et al., et
- Italicize ships, but not abbreviations that precede them:
HMCS Assinboine, the spacecraft Challenger.
- Italicize editorial clarifications [my emphasis],
rhyme schemes abab acac.
- Spell out most numerals (ordinal and cardinal) under 10 (journalism)
or 100 (general writing).
- Spell out (half of one per cent; half an inch; one-half inch;
- When quantities consist of two or more elements, when used
in technical contest, or if a decimal is involved, write them
in figures (three miles, but 5.6 km; 20/20 vision; a 50X magnification;
two metres tall but 1.6 m tall; six feet tall but 5 feet 11 inches
tall (no comma); 81/2 by 11 inch paper or 81/2 x 11 inch paper).
- If written numerically to avoid confusion or because it is
a mathematical expression, do not add ths and do not insert of
a. (3/8, not 3/8ths; 3/8 inch, not 3/8 of an inch)
- Spell out the first or smaller in a combination (ten 34-cent
stamps; two 10-room houses; 120 eight-page reports).
- Decimals of less than one use a leading zero except .38 calibre;
.999 fine gold; p<.01.
- Votes, scores, union and lodge locals, highways, and figures
used as nouns: use figures.
- Date and page ranges, usually abbreviated (A.D. 1842-46),
but do not abbreviate years B.C. (398-396 B.C.).
- End complete introductory sentence with a period or a colon:
1. Be consistent in style of list items.
2. When list items are complete sentences, end each with a period.
3. If list items are not complete sentences, do not use end punctuation.
4. Always start each item with a capital letter.
- If introductory phrase is not a complete sentence-
- the intro may end with a comma, dash, semi-colon or no punctuation,
- the items do not begin with capital letters;
- the items end with commas or, if there are interior commas,
- and the last item ends with a period.
- Examples of unusual but correct use:
- Charlemagne (742?-814) ruled from A.D. 780 to 814.
- You really believe that?
- We can always back out, can't we, if we want to?
- The question is, Who cares? or The question is this: Who
- Do you like apples, oranges and lemons? but for emphasis Do you like apples? oranges? and lemons?
- Has the murder been solved? When? By whom? What was the motive?
- Periods and commas always go inside, regardless of original
- All other marks inside if they are part of original quote,
outside if not part of the quote.
- Em dash within a quotation shows speaker's words were interrupted: "Wait a cotton pickin' -" he cried.
- Spell out zero to nine, use numerals (including cardinals)
- Use figures for numbers grouped for comparison, units of
measure, ages, percentages, money, dates (except two decades
or five centuries).
- Spell out numbers first in a sentence, in dialogue, back-to-back
modifiers, and decades (the sixties, but the 1950s and '60s).
Logos as names
Distinguish logos from names and capitalize and punctuate the
name, not the logo. For example, avoid the confusion of "k.d.
lange was looking for GUESS? jeans at the AnnTaylor. store but
settled on a pair of adidas." The logo is k.d. lange; her
name is K. D. Lang. GUESS? is a logo for Guess products. Ann Taylor's
"dot" is part of a logo, not a name.
Mid-word capitalization is more acceptable, however. MasterCard,
Singular versus Plural when nouns become modifiers
How many Cub fans in a Teamster election? Well, none. The question
of singular vs. plural when a noun becomes a modifier is a sticky
one, but this can be said with certainty: Proper nouns retain
any plural characteristics they may have. Thus, a fan of the Cubs
is a Cubs fan. When the Teamsters have an election, it's a Teamsters
election. (The desire to drop these s's is a strong one, and I
wouldn't be at all surprised to read about Burt Reynold movies.)
With common nouns, the general rule is to go with the singular,
which is why we have burger joints and cocktail lounges that serve
multiple burgers and cocktails. That tradition doesn't always
hold. Note that weapons remains plural in weapons depot. I suppose
you could get pedantic and insist on weapon depots, but you'd
have to bow to the weight of common usage (and common sense) before
stooping to arm control.
Then there's teachers union and pilots lounge and countless
others -- the not-quite-technically-possessive class of phrases
that AP has decreed should stay plural, but with no apostrophes.
I agree that the possessive looks funny, but I always at least
consider the singular in such a case. ---www.theslot.com
Plurals of closely linked nouns
When two nouns are closely linked, as in "bed and breakfast" or "gin and tonic," the plural is formed on the final noun only ("bed and breakfasts" and "gin and tonics"). Where the intention is to show the plurality of both nouns, rather than the plurality of the entity itself, then each noun is rendered in the plural. For example, "a tray of gin and tonics" would offer one choice (aside from abstinance), whereas "a tray of gins and tonics" would offer a choice to both the drinker and the teetotaller.
The Queen Mother enjoyed her gin and tonics, but never stayed at bed and breakfasts.