Writing Style Guide - Punctuation | University of Portland

Writing Style Guide - Punctuation


Use an ampersand (&) as an abbreviation for “and” only when it is part of an official title.

Correct: Office of Alumni & Parent Relations

Incorrect: José & Carly founded the Chess Club.

Colons, Semicolons

Use a colon at the end of a sentence to introduce lists and after an introductory statement that uses the words “as follows” or “the following.”

They administration met with everyone: the students, faculty, and staff.
They will talk about the following: admissions criteria; financial aid; and student activities.

Use a semicolon to divide the two parts of a compound sentence.

We already received your report; the follow-up email is not needed.

A semicolon also connects two independent clauses that use a connecting word like “therefore” or “however.”

We already received your report; therefore, the follow-up mailing is unnecessary.


At University of Portland we use the serial or Oxford comma. Place the comma before the words “and” and “or” that come before the final item in a series.

I enjoy watching soccer, basketball, and volleyball.
The concert will feature the University Singers, the Jazz Band, and a student trio.

When writing a date consisting of month, day, and year, place a comma after the day and the year.

Rev. Mark L. Poorman, CSC, became president on July 1, 2014, when the new academic year began.

Commas are not used, however, when only the month and day, or only the month and year, are written.

Rev. Mark L. Poorman, CSC, became president in July 2014.

Place a comma between the city and the state name, and another comma after the state name, unless ending a sentence.

They moved from Phoenix, AZ, to Portland, OR.
Atlanta, GA, is the site of the conference.

Exclamation marks

Should be used sparingly.

Hyphens, En Dashes, and Em Dashes

Use hyphens to create compounds words:


(See more about hyphenated words on the Tricky Words page.)

Use en dashes without spaces to show inclusive ranges or time spans:

We'll be at the beach July 6–15.
The play runs Nov. 8–12.
Dinner is served 5:30–7 p.m. every night.
Please read pages 106–154 for homework.

Note that en dashes show inclusivity. They are not used if the words "from" or "between" precede the first number. In that case, "to" or "and" (respectively) should be used in place of the en dash.

They were in London from May to August.
We have class between 9:15 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on Fridays. 

Em dashes—without spaces—can be used in place of commas, parentheses, or colons.

We traveled to three cities—Paris, Rome, and London—when we visited Europe.
We ate ice cream—with whipped cream and sprinkles—for breakfast that day.
All the bills are due this month—tuition, books, and rent.

Quotation marks

Use quotation marks for citations, direct quotations, and to off-set special phrases or terms used in text. Commas and periods are placed inside the closing quotation mark; colons and semicolons are placed outside. Question marks are placed inside quotation marks when they apply to the whole sentence; outside when they are not a part of the quotation.

He said, “I like ice cream.”
“My favorite color is blue,” she declared.
Mary asked, “When is tip-off?”
Who said “waste not, want not”?

In running quotations, each new paragraph should begin with open quotation marks (no closing marks). Only the final paragraph should contain the closing quotation mark.

The speech was as follows: “Welcome, ladies and gentlemen. I have a few points to make today. The first is to thank you for this honor. My accomplishments are noteworthy only in so far as they help to advance this important field of human endeavor.

“Finally, let me ask you to do more than turn your mental energies to this important effort. Give your total energies—in the form of financial support, volunteer time, active advocacy—for the sake of progress. Then we can all share in this special honor. Thank you.”