Punctuation

Updated 8/4/20

Ampersand

Use only for corporations, businesses and organizations that include it as part of the formal name (AT&T, Simon & Schuster). Do not substitute the ampersand for and except in charts, graphs or tabular material.


Apostrophe 

Possessives: There seems to be no confusion in forming possessives of regular nouns that do not end in s or z. The general rule is to add 's to the singular and an apostrophe only after the s to the plural.

the boy's hat (singular)
the boys' hats (plural)

Singular common nouns ending in s: Add 's unless the next word begins with s.

the campus's invitation (plural is campuses' invitations)
the campus' sponsor (plural is campuses' sponsors)

Rules for forming the possessive of proper nouns ending in s are confusing. We follow the usage of The Associated Press Stylebook. Add an apostrophe only.

Los Angeles' public schools
Socrates' plays
Jones' reputation
the Joneses' reputations
Ross' land
the Rosses' and the Williamses' lands
Channel Islands' representative
Channel Islands' structures

Singular proper names ending in x or z: Add 's

Fairfax's estate
Gonzalez's campus

The possessives of pronouns do not get apostrophes (hers, not her's; its, not it's; theirs, not their's or theirs').

Plurals of Letters and Numbers: Generally, capital letters used as words, multiple letters, and numbers used as nouns form the plural by adding s alone (the 1930s, YMCAs, PCs). The plural of single lowercase letters is formed with an apostrophe and s (mind your p's and q's).


Colon 

The colon is used to mark a break in grammatical construction for explanation, expansion, enumeration or elaboration and emphasizes the content relation between the separated elements. It is commonly used to introduce a list or series. In a sentence, lowercase the first word after a colon unless that word is a proper noun, the start of a complete sentence or a quotation. A colon should not separate the main elements of a sentence (such as the direct object from the verb), even if the direct object is a vertical list.


Comma 

Serial Comma: A serial comma (also called the Oxford comma) is used after the penultimate (next-to-last) item in a list of three or more items. As a rule, the Chancellor's Office does not use the serial comma. So you should use commas to separate elements in a series, but do not use a comma before the conjunction in a simple series (the "and" in the following example): Jackie, Marsha and Kelly are expected.

In a longer and/or more complex list, however, you should use a comma before the conjunction to give the reader a pause.

Do use the serial comma to avoid confusing the reader:
Incorrect: "To my parents, Ayn Rand and God."
Correct: "To my parents, Ayn Rand, and God."

Jr., Sr.: It is no longer necessary to have a comma before Jr. or Sr. in a name, but follow the individual's preference. If you do use a comma, you need one after also, unless, of course, Jr. or Sr. is the final word in the sentence. Do not use a comma before the Roman numeral in a name (Daniel Jacobs III).

Large Numbers: Use a comma for most numbers greater than 999 (1,001; 202,000). Exceptions include street addresses, room numbers, serial numbers and years.

Dates: Express dates by month-day-year. Your letter of November 11, 2001, was received. (A comma is used before and after the year.) When expressing month and year only, do not use a comma (January 2002, not January, 2002).

City and State Names:  Place one comma between the city and the state name, and another comma after the state name, unless ending a sentence or indicating a dateline: He was traveling from Nashville, Tennessee, to Austin, Texas, en route to his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She said Cook County, Illinois, was Mayor Daley's stronghold.

Academic Abbreviations: When an academic abbreviation such as Ph.D. is used to introduce someone, use a comma before and after the abbreviation. John Snow, Ph.D., and Jane Doe, Ph.D., will attend the conference.  (On second reference for sources with doctorates, refer to them as Dr. Snow and Dr. Doe. On third and all other subsequent references, use last name only.)

Dashes

Em Dash (—)
The em dash (—) is used to denote a break in thought that causes an abrupt change in sentence structure or encloses parenthetical material. Do not include spaces on both sides. Be sure that you don't use a hyphen or two hyphens. An em dash is a single, longer mark.


Ellipses 

An ellipsis typically consists of three dots (…). Use an ellipsis when omitting a phrase or line from a quoted passage. Add a space on each side of the ellipsis.


Footnote numbers 

Whenever possible, a note number or asterisk should come at the end of a clause or sentence so the reader is not distracted. Asterisks and superscript numbers follow punctuation marks (except for dashes) in text and are placed outside the closing parenthesis. ("This," she said, "cannot be true."1 He found the quotation too lengthy2—remember his remarks on the subject.)


Hyphen 

Hyphens are typically used to connect two or more words functioning together as an adjective before a noun (often to avoid ambiguity). Example: small-business profits, rather than small business profits.

DO hyphenate:

  • Full-time and part-time when used as adjectives (He is a full-time employee. But: He works full time.)
  • Modifying words combined with well when preceding a noun (a well-known author)
  • Words beginning with the prefixes all and self (all-encompassing, self-supporting)
  • Compounds consisting of a number and a unit of measure before the noun (three-mile limit, 100-yard race)
  • Compounds ending with a preposition (like out, up, of) before the noun (check-out time, burned-up reports, unheard-of recommendation)

DO NOT hyphenate:

  • When connecting -ly adverbs to words they modify (slowly rising river).
  • Vice chancellor, vice president, ex officio.
  • Words with the prefixes anti, co, multi, non, post, pre, re, semi and sub (except those containing a proper noun). However, hyphenate if the letter that ends the prefix is the same as the first letter of the word following the hyphen (anti-intellectual, non-native) or if the word could be confusing to the reader (re-sign).
  • Compounds consisting of a number followed by percent (a 10 percent increase; a 50 percent profit).

Suspensive hyphenation: Used in a compound showing a range of time, age, amount, etc. Note the spacing. Both full- and part-time jobs are offered.


Periods

Use of Dr., Ph.D., and Ed.D. all take periods (not: Dr, PhD, EdD). The exceptions among doctorates issued by the CSU are AuD (Doctor of Audiology); DNP (Doctor of  Nursing Practice); and DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy) which do not take periods within the degree abbreviation.


Quotation Marks 

Use the double symbol "__" at the beginning and end of quoted material and a single symbol '___' for a quotation within a quotation. ("Open the box," said John, "and you will see 'Handle with Care' written in red ink.")

With Other Punctuation

  • The comma and period always go inside quotation marks.
  • The semicolon, colon, question mark, exclamation point and dash go inside quotation marks if they are part of the quotation and outside if they are not.

He asked, "Who called the operator?"
Who said, "Call the operator"?


Lengthy Quotations

  • If quoted material runs four or more lines in text, it is better to use a block quotation.
  • A block quotation is indented on both sides from the set margin and does not require quotation marks. Should the quoted material have internal quotes, remember to change them from the single to the double.
  • If quoting more than one paragraph and the block quotation is not used, quotation marks are placed at the beginning of each paragraph. There are no ending quotation marks until the final paragraph.

Italics or Quotati​​on Marks?​

Use quotation marks for:

  • Book titles
  • Movie titles
  • Opera and play titles
  • Poem titles
  • Album and song titles
  • Radio and television ​program titles
  • Titles of lectures, speeches and works of art
  • Titles of dissertations and theses
  • Webinar names
As per Associated Press style, ship names (e.g., The Golden Bear) do not take italics or quotation marks.

Italics are rarely used. Do not use quotation marks or italics for newspaper names or magazine titles.


Semicolon 

The semicolon marks a more important break in the sentence than that marked by a comma. The semicolon is used to separate two parts of a compound sentence that are related but not connected by a conjunction (e.g., and, but, for) and to separate items in a series that are long and complex or that involve internal punctuation. (We invited representatives from several campuses: David Wu, CSU San Bernardino; Lauren Campos, Cal Poly Pomona; and Mark Izumi, Humboldt State.) With a compound sentence, an easy way to determine if a semicolon is appropriate is to substitute a period and see if each unit can stand on its own (has a subject and verb). (We were running late; the plane was due in 20 minutes.)


Spaces

Use only one space after a period at the end of a sentence, not two. ​