• Use commas to separate elements in a series, but do not put a comma before a conjunction in a simple series: The flag is red, white and blue. Do put a comma before the concluding conjunction in a series if an integral element of the series requires a conjunction or when a comma is needed for clarification: I had orange juice, toast, and ham and eggs for breakfast. When one or more of the elements contains a comma and the series is relatively long, a semicolon should be used to separate elements. Try to keep construction parallel.

  • Semicolons are used, in general, to indicate a greater separation of thought and information than a comma can convey, but less than the separation that a period implies. Use semicolons to separate elements of a series when individual segments contain material that also must be set off by commas.  Use a semicolon before the final "and" in such a series. There is only one space after a semicolon.

  • Periods are followed by one space in paragraphs containing multiple sentences.

  • Periods and commas are always placed inside quotation marks. The dash, semicolon, question mark and exclamation point go within the quotation marks when they apply to the quoted matter only. They go outside when they apply to the whole sentence. Examples: She said, "I think he should be called." The instructor asked the class, "How does this scene move the story along?" Which character said, "The quality of mercy is not strained..."?

  • Use quotation marks for titles of articles, songs, chapters in books, radio and television programs. If the radio or television program is a continuing series, it is italicized: National Public Radio's All Things Considered. Italicize titles of books, magazines, newspapers, plays, long musical compositions and operas, works of art and motion pictures.

  • Colons are followed by one space. Capitalize the first word after a colon only if it is a proper noun or the start of a complete sentence. Please note this requirement: All assignments must be typed. There were three considerations: expenses, time and feasibility.

  • Use the apostrophe to indicate possession; do not use apostrophes to indicate a plural or make a verb form. He collected OKs from all the GIs who had hidden from B52s in the 1960s. She did not approve the student's degree plan. Use an apostrophe to form the plural of a single letter: Her report card was all A's.

  • Oxford English Dictionary's spelling is the rule for hyphenation of word combinations that are permanent compound accepted usages, and words formed by the addition of prefixes. Neither hyphens (-) nor en dashes (–) and em dashes (—) require spaces around them.

  • Use a hyphen in constructions forming temporary compounds where necessary to clarify sense. Often this is the case when a compound is formed as an adjective modifier: degree-seeking students, problem-solving methods. The hyphen is not necessary where meaning is clear:  civil service employee, continuing education student, learning assessment agreement.

  • Use a hyphen in compound constructions containing a prefix that modifies two or more words: post-high school studies; but postsecondary education.

  • Use hyphens in constructions containing two or more compounds that share a common element that is omitted in all but the final term: second- and third-year students, short- and long-term goals.

  • Use a hyphen in compound constructions containing a numerical first element that acts as an adjective:   10-session sequence, twentieth-century literature, three-quarter series.

  • Do not use a hyphen in compound constructions containing an adverb ending in "ly," a comparative or a superlative: federally funded scholarship, lowest common denominator.

  • Adverbs or combined adjective elements used after the word modified need no hyphenation:  Her resume was up to date, but he submitted an up-to-date resume.

  • When to use a hyphen and a dash:

• Hyphenate words, social security numbers and telephone numbers

• Use an en dash (–) to connect continuing numbers, dates, time or reference numbers: May–June, 2004; 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

• Use an em dash (—) to indicate a break in thought or when the speech of one is interrupted by another.

  • Use of exclamation points can be distracting and is, for the most part, unnecessary in professional writing.