Punctuation & Symbols

Punctuation guidelines

  • Use one space after a period, question mark, or exclamation point.
  • Use exclamation points sparingly, if at all.


Guideline: Do no use periods for degree titles.


    • MD
    • PhD
    • MS
    • BS
    • MSN

Guideline: When referring to a degree within text, use abbreviation or spell out.


    • master's degree
    • earned a master's
    • master of science


Guideline: When listing dates by decades, use an apostrophe in place of the omitted century digits.


  • In the ’90s, grunge style became popular.
  • The local radio station plays the ’90s’ greatest hits.
  • The School of Public Health reached several major milestones in the 1990s and 2000s.

Ampersand (& symbol)

Guideline: Spell out the word "and" instead of using an ampersand (&).

Exception: Use & in navigation labels, e.g., Education & Training or Punctuation & Symbols

Additional exceptions: Use an ampersand when:

  • if it is officially in a company name
  • if it is part of an academic citation style
  • if space is extremely limited, as in tabular data
  • type treatment decisions made by a designer for a particular situation.

Hyphens and dashes

Guideline: Follow the Chicago Manual of Style website's guidelines for hyphens and dashes.

Em dash —

En dash –

Hyphen -


Guideline: Use semicolons when you have two related sentences you want to connect without the use of a conjunction. Read more about semicolons on the Chicago Manual of Syle website.


    • Megan sent the invitations; Emily compiled the final guest list.

Serial comma

Guideline: Use a serial comma. These are sometimes called Oxford or Harvard commas. Read more about the serial comma on the Chicago Manual of Style website.


    • The Academic Health Center has many colleges, schools, departments, divisions, centers, institutes, offices, and labs.
    • The School of Public Health, Medical School, School of Dentistry, and School of Nursing are all schools in the Academic Health Center. 

Exception: For public relations items like news releases, follow the Associate Press AP Stylebook with respect to serial commas. Like AP, public relations communications at times should use a serial comma to resolve ambiguity.


    • The meal consisted of soup, salad, and macaroni and cheese.
    • I had orange juice, toast, and ham and eggs for breakfast.

Quotation marks

Guideline: Use double quotation marks when quoting someone verbatim. A period or comma precedes the final quotation mark. Colons and semicolons follow the quoted matter. Exclamation points and question marks follow the quotation mark, unless they are part of the quotation. Read more about use of punctuation with quotations on the Chicago Manual of Style website.

Use single quotation marks for a quote within a quote. For a long quotation, use an excerpt style. Read more about quotation marks on the Chicago Manual of Syle website.


    • "Apply now," she said, "or you may never apply again."
    • I heard the program coordinator explain that "The web point person said: 'Follow these style guidelines.'"
    • Was it Albert Einstein who said, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"?
    • She asked me: "What's the big deal?"