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Style and Punctuation

Your writing will be improved when you follow these recommendations regarding style and punctuation.


Active voice. Basically, this means to avoid overusing “was” by choosing more vivid, descriptive verbs instead. This makes sentences shorter and more precise. Don’t write: The new student drama production was a huge success with the audience. Instead, write: The audience loved the new student drama production.

Appositives. Appositives are words or phrases that relate to other words or phrases in a sentence. A name following a general term or description is its appositive. Examples: the emperor Napoleon, the wide receiver McGhee. When descriptions are very long, it is better to write the person’s name first, then give the description. The same practice works well when writing about people with lengthy titles: write the name first, then the title. Don’t write: We visited the laboratory of Chief Medical Officer and Director of Emergency Services Dr. Rosemary Cain. Instead, write: We visited the laboratory of Dr. Rosemary Cain, chief medical officer and director of emergency services.

Brevity. If there are lots of words in a sentence, taking some of them out will make it clearer and more direct. Don’t write: It is a given that everyone attending the conference will be accompanied by a spouse. Instead, write: Everyone attending the conference will bring a spouse.


Space at end of a sentence. Professional typesetters use only one space at the end of a sentence, not two. This has become the accepted practice for writers in the era of desktop publishing. Do not follow the old rule of two spaces after sentences.

URLs. Do not underline Web addresses in print publications. Include a period after a URL at the end of a sentence. Example: For more information, visit

And. Except when used in acronyms, spell out “and” in names and titles.

Phone Numbers. Use hyphens between groups of numbers. Example: 304-111-2222

Dates. Use Arabic figures without st, nd, rd or th. Example. Monday, May 1

Times. Use Arabic figures except for noon and midnight. Examples: 7:30 a.m., 7-9 p.m., 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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