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Punctuation

Ampersand (&)

In general, avoid using the symbol in text and titles. Acceptable to use in established proper names.

Example: The Mike & Ophelia Lazaridis Quantum-Nano Centre.

At (@)

The @ symbol is commonly used for social media, collaboration tools (such as Slack and Mattermost) and in email addresses. To avoid confusion, avoid using in titles and text when possible.

Commas

  • The Harvard comma (the one before the "and" in a series like this: red, white, and blue) is also known as an Oxford comma, a serial comma, or a series comma. It can be the subject of surprisingly intense debate.
  • As to the use or non-use of the Harvard comma, either convention is acceptable so long as each article is consistent within itself, or in cases where the use of the comma adds needed clarity to the material.

Contractions

In non-academic writing, contractions are acceptable and may help to make the writing more accessible to a general audience. Reported speech should always retain its contractions.

Some contractions, such as ones with “who,” are inelegant and should not be used. The context should determine whether contractions are appropriate and which contractions are acceptable.

For international students, contractions can be used in the same way as they are for a domestic audience.

Contractions are not used in the acknowledgment or offer letters from the deans, directors, or department heads.

Dash

  • Use dashes sparingly.
  • Use a dash — like this — with a space at each end.

See Canadian Press Stylebook (Punctuation — Dash) for more on the dash. CP notes include:

  • Use dashes to set off mid-sentence lists punctuated by commas. (The professor will cover a number of items – visas, curriculum, accommodation – relevant to the students on exchange.)
  • Use dashes when commas (generally preferable) would create confusion. (The pies – meat and fruit – were cheap.)
  • Use a dash to mark a sharp break in a word or sentence, or to introduce a clause that summarizes, emphasizes or contrasts what has gone before.

Ellipsis

  • An ellipsis … three periods or special character … has a space at each end.
  • When condensing a written text, put other required punctuation before the ellipsis. An ellipsis at the end of a sentence will have four periods, with no space between the first period and the last word. We must try harder, … produce more, … lower our expectations. …
  • If elements in a list of three or more items contain internal punctuation, use semicolons to separate the elements.
  • In HTML, the … character can be used. There are keyboard commands for creating an ellipsis in other software.

Possessive pronouns

Possessive nouns take an apostrophe. Possessive pronouns do not.

Examples: a mouse’s tail, its tail; the fault was yours; the students’ marks, their marks; the house was hers and John’s; whose is this?

Quotations and quotes

  • Use double quotation marks. Single marks are for quotations within quotations.
  • When quoting from speech, use an ellipsis within the quote, but not at the beginning or end, to indicate that a substantial part of the quotation has been left out.
  • When necessary for clarity or grammatical correctness, add or replace a word or phrase within the quote by enclosing it square brackets.
  • Capitalize the first word of a quote when it is a complete sentence; not when it is partial.
  • When a quote continues in a second paragraph, drop the closing quotation marks at the end of the first paragraph and begin the second paragraph with new opening quotation marks.
  • Make sure the pronouns in a sentence with a partial quotation still make sense.

Punctuation inside quotations

  • Periods and commas always go inside quotation marks; colons and semi-colons outside.
  • The question mark and exclamation mark go inside quotation marks when they apply to the quoted matter only, outside when they apply to the entire sentence.

Example:

  • He said, "There is no time to lose." He said there was "no time to lose." He said, "Time is up, and . . . there is no time to lose."
  • "The child [Adam] was returned to his home,” said the officer.
  • He said, “I would like you all to meet my sister.” Or: He said he would like them all to meet his sister.

Spaces

  • There is no space between initials. Example: H.L. Mencken, C.S. Lewis.
  • There is no space around a slash (oblique). Use sparingly in body text. Example: n/a, c/o
  • Use one space between sentences.