The Flinders University School of Humanities Style Guide

Style Guide Home


Punctuation -continued

Truncations Capitalisation Colons and semicolons Commas
Full stops Quotation marks    

Truncations

Some words have entered common usage in an abbreviated or truncated form; these are often words that are abbreviated by omitting the first part of the word. In these cases, no apostrophe is needed to indicate the missing portions of the words. For example:

bus, not ’bus (bus is a truncation of “omnibus”)
phone, not ’phone (phone is a truncation of “telephone”)

top

Capitalisation

There are very specific rules about capitalisation in English. Do not capitalise at whim, or to emphasise a word or a phrase you consider to be important. This merely looks like shouting.

Capitalisation is used in the following ways:

-for the first person singular: “I”;
-for the first word of a sentence;
-for the first word when quoting direct speech: She said, “We are very pleased to be here”;
-for proper names of individuals (“John”, “Mary”);
-for the names of specific institutions (“Flinders University” – but not in “Today I must go to university”);
-for the names of official positions (“the President” – but not in “He is the president of our club”);
-for the names of languages (“French”, “Italian”);
-for the names of nationalities (“Australian”);
-for the names of countries (“Africa”, “Canada”);
-for days of the week, months, and special days of the year, but not for the seasons;
-for the title of a relationship if that word is taking the place of a proper name (“This afternoon Father will pick me up from school”), but not if the relationship is simply being described (“This afternoon my father will pick me up from school”);
-for the first, last and every major word in a title (“Brave New World”, “The Catcher in the Rye”).

top

Colons and semicolons

The colon sign “:” means “as follows”. A colon usually indicates equivalence between what precedes it and what follows it. The main functions of colons are to introduce quoted passages to which you refer, and to introduce examples and long or complex lists. Used within the body of a piece of text, whatever precedes a colon must be a complete sentence.

The semicolon “;” is useful in separating items in lists where each individual item has subgroups within it that are divided by commas. Do not use semicolons to separate single words or individual items in a list. Semicolons are also used to join two independent clauses that could otherwise stand as two separate sentences or be joined by a conjuction of some kind. The semicolon indicates a weaker connection between the two clauses than would a comma, but a stronger connection than would be suggested by separating the two clauses into individual sentences.

It is never correct to precede a quotation with a semi-colon.

top

Commas

Use commas:
-to introduce a short direct quotation;
-before a conjuntion when the conjunction separates two independent clauses:
“The party is on Saturday, and we are looking forward to it.”;
-after an introductory expression, to separate it from the main part of the sentence: “To celebrate my birthday, we’re having a party on Saturday.”;
-around information not essential to a sentence’s meaning, to divide it from the rest of the sentence: “The party, which is to celebrate my birthday, is on Saturday.”;
-between items in a series of three or more, including just before the final “and” or “or”: “At the party there’ll be balloons, streamers, and cake.”;
-around the name of a person you are addressing: “You are welcome, Mary, to come to the party.”;
-around a word that interrupts the sentence, such as “however”, “moreover”, etc.

Do not use commas
-between items in a short series of adjectives;
-to run together two complete sentences.

A comma cannot logically precede a parenthesis.

top

Full stops

A full stop is used to mark the end of a sentence, and after some, but not all, forms of abbreviation.

All footnotes and endnotes, whether or not they form complete sentences, should end with a full stop.

When a passage within parentheses falls at the end of a sentence, of which the parenthesised section is only a part, the full stop must be placed outside of the closing parenthesis. On the other hand, when a complete sentence is enclosed within parentheses, the full stop must be placed within the closing parenthesis.

Similarly, when one of your sentences ends with a quotation, the full stop indicating the end of the sentence goes outside of the quotation marks; the full stop is essential to the integrity of your sentence, and it is a part of your sentence, not a part of the quotation you are giving within that sentence. This remains true even if the quotation itself has a full stop in the original.

top

Quotation marks

The use of quotation marks should be reserved for indicating direct quotations and definitions. Do not use quotation marks to excuse the use of slang or imprecise terms, and do not use them to emphasise a particular word or phrase: this only gives the impression that you are sceptical about the use of that term.


Links

Style Guide Home

Humanities Exchange Website Home



Quicklinks:

MHRA Referencing

Flinders University Library

Professor Graham Tulloch of the English Department has written a booklet entitled English Grammar: A Short Guide. This text covers fundamental aspects of English grammar, such as parts of a word, parts of a sentence, and parts of speech

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


©2006 Flinders University Style Guide Home • Top