Our style is to use minimal punctuation. That means removing unnecessary punctuation, as long as it doesn’t change your meaning.
Apostrophes indicate contractions or possessives.
|She's not in class today.||Shes not in class today.|
|The library's opening hours have changed.||The librarys opening hours have changed.|
Apostrophes are not used to indicate plurals, except when abbreviations or letters are used as nouns.
|The library now has hundreds of new videos and DVDs available for loan.||The library now has hundred's of new video's and DVD's available for loan.|
|I gave them four A's and six B's.||I gave them four as and six bs.|
Colons and semicolons
Colons are used after a statement that introduces a list, a quotation or an example.
|Federation has campuses in three regional areas: Ballarat, Gippsland, and the Wimmera.||Federation has campuses in three regional areas, Ballarat, Gippsland and the Wimmera.|
Semicolons link two related but independent clauses. Both halves of the sentence must make sense on their own. If they don’t, don’t use a semicolon.
|Summer is bushfire season; be very careful when using naked flames.||Summer is bushfire season; hot and dry.|
Semicolons are also used to separate items in a list if commas would make it confusing, for example, when one or more items in the list need their own commas for clarity.
|The prize winners were Selma Lee, Ballarat; Peter Campbell, Churchill; and Dac Nguyen, Berwick.||The prize winners were Selma Lee, Ballarat, Peter Campbell, Churchill, and Dac Nguyen, Berwick.|
Note that there is a semicolon before the last item in the list.
Commas are used to separate clauses in a sentence, or items within a list. Our style is to not use a comma before the final item of a list, unless it is needed for clarity.
|She took a photograph of her parents, the king, and the queen. [The photograph was of four people.]||She took a photograph of her parents, the king and the queen. [The photograph was of two people: her parents who are also the king and queen.]|
Hyphens and dashes
Hyphens, en dashes and em dashes all have different uses.
Hyphens are used to join two words that work together to make an adjective, or where a prefix makes a word confusing.
|We are all ready for a well-earned break.||We are all ready for a well earned break.|
|Please tell us if you have any pre-existing injuries.||Please tell us if you have any pre existing injuries.|
En dashes (–) with a space on either side isolate an explanation or phrase within a sentence. Our style is to use spaced en dashes.
|The library – like all shared spaces – should be a comfortable and pleasant place for everyone to work in.||The library - like all shared spaces - should be a comfortable and pleasant place for everyone to work in.|
Em dashes (—) are used to signal an abrupt interruption. They are rarely used outside fiction writing.
Our style is to use single quotation marks (‘ ’), not double (“ ”). Use quotation marks for:
- direct quotes
- the titles of lectures, speeches, conferences and songs
- the titles of chapters or articles in books or other publications (but not the publication title)
- the first mention of an unfamiliar term, before you define it
- words used in an unusual way, or colloquial terms.
For quotes within quotes, use double quotations marks.