Punctuation and symbols should be used sparingly.
The ‘@’ symbol should only be used in an email address or social media address. Never use it to represent the word ‘at’.
Use only in names or non-English text, not in words like cafe.
Use in breadcrumb trails and navigation panels. Never use in paragraph text.
Use as necessary in headings - 'and' is preferred - but make sure you are consistent.
Use with time periods where the time period modifies a noun.
- two days’ time, 12 years’ imprisonment
but not where the time period modifies an adjective.
- Six months pregnant, ten years old
Where an object or objects belong to one person or thing, the apostrophe goes before the s.
- The University’s halls of residence
The one exception to this rule is its.
- The book was old and its cover was in tatters.
Where an object or objects belong to more than one person or thing, then the apostrophe goes after the s.
- Students’ Union, Freshers’ Week
Where plural nouns that don’t end in s are used – eg children, women, sheep – the apostrophe goes before the s.
- The women’s minibus runs until 11pm.
Nouns ending in s
Singular proper nouns ending in s follow the rule of writing what is voiced.
- Keats’s poetry.
It is acceptable to omit the additional s provided your approach is consistent.
- Dickens’ Great Expectations, Welles’ Citizen Kane.
If the ‘s’ is soft, omit the ‘s’ in writing.
- Rabelais’ writings.
The s is usually omitted when the last syllable is pronounced ‘iz’ and in the names of the ancients, except for ‘Jesus.’
- Moses’ scriptures, Socrates’ philosophies, Achilles’ heel
- Jesus’s disciples
Never use an apostrophe in plurals, except to indicate the plural of single letters.
- the 1960s not the 1960’s
- CDs not CD’s
- 3 As at A level not 3 A’s at A level
- crossing the i’s, p’s and q’s
If the sentence is logically and grammatically complete without the information contained within the parentheses, the punctuation stays outside the brackets.
- We will contact all postgraduate students (including PhD students).
When a complete sentence is within brackets, the full stop stays within the brackets as well.
- Use gloves when conducting chemistry experiments. (These are stored in the cupboard.)
Square brackets are used when an interpolation [a note from the writer, not the speaker] is added.
- Professor Elaine Watson said: “We are honoured that HRH The Princess Royal [the Vet School’s patron] could be with us.”
Colons are used to indicate the beginning of lists in sentences:
- Research topics include: gender and politics in France, French cinema, twentieth-century literature.
Colons can also be used to separate statements in a sentence, when the second statement explains the first.
- Chemistry has some of the best facilities in the country: its recently refurbished laboratories are state of the art.
Dashes and hyphens
Keep hyphen usage to a minimum.
Hyphens in print and signage
Hyphen usage in print can help readers to better understand language, for example in compound adjectives.
Hyphens in digital content
In digital content, hyphens can cause readability problems and may not be recognised by screen-reading software. Some screen readers can interpret them as minus signs.
If you need to use a hyphen, make sure it is a hyphen and not an en-dash or an em-dash.
There are some circumstances in which you should include a hyphen.
These include in most words with the prefixes 'hi' and 'e.'
- hi-tech, hi-res
- e-learning, e-commerce (but not in the word 'email')
Use hyphens in compound adjectives.
- World-leading research
- The four-year course
- A common-sense approach
- A half-hour wait
- Examples of twentieth-century literature
- You can study part-time
- The out-of-date equipment
- A well-read book
- the 24-hour clock
- Your A-level results
Do not use a hyphen if the compound adjective starts with 'multi.'
An exception is if 'multi' is followed by a vowel.
Omit the hyphen if the adverb ends in -ly.
- A badly prepared speech
- Genetically modified vegetables
Avoid hyphens for time and date ranges. Use 'to' instead.
- 5 to 7 July not 5-7 July
- 2020 to 2024 not 2020-2024
Three full stops, not two.
Use a space before and after an ellipsis. Can be used to indicate a pause in speech, an unfinished thought or a trailing off into silence at the end of a sentence.
- He said “The University of Edinburgh…is wonderful”.
Use sparingly. It is unlikely this will be needed, even in direct speech. Never use in headings or navigation panels, unless it is a title of something.
- The Chancellor’s favourite poem is ‘Forward Ho!’
- ‘Forward Ho!’ is the Chancellors’ favourite poem!
Per cent %
Not percent. %, combined with a numeral, is better.
- Sixty-four per cent
- 64 percent
A question or request should end in a question mark. There should be no space between the last letter of the sentence and question mark.
- Where do I get an application form?
- Where do I get an application form
Direct speech should be contained in double quotes. Quotes within quotes should be contained in single quotes.
- “Our Students’ Union is excellent.”
- “So I said to him, ‘I don’t think so’ and he said…”
When quoting multiple paragraphs, opening quotation marks should be used at the start of each paragraph; closing marks only at the end of the final paragraph.
Titles of essays, articles, songs and poems should be in single quotation marks.
Don't use quotation marks when using the EdWeb quotation element, as these are added automatically.
Never use double spaces at the end of a sentence.
Used to separate clauses or items in a list, or to indicate a pause longer than that of a comma and shorter than that of a full stop. Usually the two parts of a sentence divided by a semicolon balance each other, rather than lead from one to the other (in which case a colon should be used).
- Some reporters were brilliant; others were mediocre.
Double spaces should not be used at the end of a sentence.