Brand > Brand Standards > Writing Guidelines > Punctuation Guide

Punctuation Guide

Bullet points are an effective way of calling attention to important information. They allow readers to quickly access key points. All items in a list should be syntactically similar. 

When introducing a list with a complete sentence, use a colon. 

Your application must include the following documents:
  • Résumé/curriculum vitae
  • Official transcripts 
  • Personal statement
  • Two letters of recommendation
If the introduction is not a complete grammatical sentence, do not use a colon.
Your application must include
  • a résumé or curriculum vitae;
  • official transcripts; 
  • a personal statement; and
  • two letters of recommendation.
Separate items in a series with commas, but do not use a comma before a conjunction and the last item in a simple series: DePaul is a Catholic, Vincentian and urban institution.

Use the serial comma before the terminal conjunction in a complex series or in other cases where the serial comma will provide clarity and improve readability. 

Use commas to set off hometowns: Professor John Smith, Chicago, and Professor Jane Jones, South Bend. Ind., attended the conference. The comma isn’t required if the word of is used: Professor John Smith of Chicago and Professor Jane Jones of South Bend, Ind., attended the conference.

Use commas to set off names of states and nations: Professor John Johnson traveled from Peoria, Ill., to Manama, Bahrain.

Use commas with numbers larger than three digits: DePaul enrolled 2,400 freshmen in 2006.

Use commas, not parentheses or dashes, to set off appositives: John Smith, professor of English, just published a new book of poetry.

When a phrase lists only a month and year, do not separate the year with commas: February 2006 was a cold month. However, when a phrase refers to a month, day and year, set off the year with commas: March 15, 2017, is the target date of the launch.

ellipses (...)
Use an ellipsis to show the deletion of one or more words in condensing quotes. In general, treat it as a three-letter word. If the ellipsis occurs at the end of a sentence, place a period at the end of the last word before the ellipsis. Follow it with a regular space and an ellipsis: You are coming of age in unsettling times. ...

hyphens, dashes and parentheses
Hyphens are joiners; dashes are separators; parentheses allow insertion of background or reference material.

Use hyphens to avoid ambiguity or to form a single thought from two or more words: re-create, a know-it-all, tight-lipped person. Common and unambiguous adjectives do not need to be hyphenated: high school student, ice cream cone. Use hyphens to separate numerals in ratios: 10-to-1 ratio, a 2-1 margin, and scores: the Blue Demons won 10-2.

Dashes signal an abrupt change in thought. Do not insert spaces on either side of the em dash. When a phrase that otherwise would be set off by commas contains a series of words that must be separated by commas, use dashes to set off the full phrase: DePaul’s essential qualities—Catholic, Vincentian and urban—are key to our mission.

Parentheses should be used sparingly because they are jarring to readers. Put the period outside the closing parenthesis if the set-off information is a fragment (like this, for instance). If the material is a complete sentence, but is dependent upon the surrounding information (this is a good example) do not include a period inside the parentheses. However, if the material is a complete sentence that is a separate thought, put a period inside the parentheses. (Now we are ready for the next section.)

quotation marks (also see composition titles)
Use double quotation marks (“) to set off direct quotes, and single quotation marks (‘) to set off a quote or a title of a creative work within a quote. All punctuation marks, except the colon, semi-colon, dash and exclamation point, should stand within both double and single quotation marks. The colon, semi-colon, dash and exclamation point stand within the quotation marks when they apply to the quoted material. If a paragraph ends with a quotation that ends in a complete sentence and is continued in the next paragraph, do not use the quotation marks at the end of the first paragraph. Open succeeding paragraphs with quotation marks until the quote is concluded. “I saw ‘Othello’ last night,” he said, “and I really enjoyed it. “I was up until 2 a.m., though, because I stayed for the cast party.”