Section 9: Punctuation and spelling

9.1 Accents and diacritics

Refer to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary for foreign accented words that have been imported into English. For exceptions, see Appendix B: Word list.

Generally use accents if using a foreign word or phrase that is not in the dictionary. Some words, especially in Aboriginal languages, have special characters, accents and typographical renderings; in such cases, it is best to seek out competent authority (e.g., in the linguistics department); likewise for words in ideographic languages (e.g., Chinese, Japanese) that have been romanized—get competent authority for accenting.

See also: 5.7 Typography and transliteration

9.2 Ampersand

Avoid using the ampersand [&] in running text.

Avoid using the ampersand in job titles or the names of UVic academic or administrative units.

The ampersand is acceptable in lists and as an element in registered company names.


9.3 Commas

Put commas between the elements of a series but not before the final “and,” “or” or “nor” unless that avoids confusion.

9.4 Dashes and hyphens

An em dash (— longer than a hyphen or an en dash), not a hyphen (-), is used to set off a phrase in the same way as commas and brackets. There should be no spaces before or after an em dash.

The key codes for an em dash are Ctrl+Alt+-(on the number pad) for Windows and Shift+Option+- for Macintosh.

En dash (–): The en dash is used in ranges of numbers. See Numbers: Ranges (inclusive numbers).

The key codes for an en dash are Ctrl+- (on the number pad) for Windows and Option+- for Macintosh.

Use hyphens in compound adjectives followed immediately by the noun they modify.

first-year student

Use hyphens in constructions such as “two- and three-year-olds.”

9.5 Ellipses

Use an ellipsis (three spaced periods) to indicate an omission from a text or quotation. A sentence ending with an ellipsis requires no further end punctuation.

[The key codes for an ellipsis are Alt+0133 for Windows and Option+; for Macintosh.]

9.6 Parentheses and brackets

Use parentheses sparingly (only when other punctuation won’t do).

Remember that parentheses, like commas, are used to enclose non-essential information.

Use full parentheses in numbering or lettering a series within a sentence.

The union pressed for (a) more pay, (b) a shorter work week and (c) better pensions.

Use parentheses to enclose equivalents and translations.

If a punctuation mark applies to a whole sentence, put it after the closing parenthesis.

If a punctuation mark applies only to the words inside the parenthetical section, put the mark inside the closing parenthesis.

Square brackets are used to enclose material in quoted material that does not belong to the original quotation. Square brackets are also used to insert sic into quoted material. Sic is used to indicate that errors in a quotation are the fault of the author of the quoted material and that you are aware of the mistake.

9.7 Quotation marks

Use double quotation marks for direct quotes; use single quotation marks for quotes within quotes.

Use quotation marks to set off a significant word or phrase.
Use quotation marks around unfamiliar terms on first reference or to refer to words as words or letters as letters.

Quotation marks are used around titles of poems, short fiction, chapter titles and other short works; italics are used for the titles of longer works.

Periods and commas go inside quotation marks; colons and semicolons go outside quotation marks. The question mark and exclamation mark go inside the quote marks when they apply to the quoted matter only; outside when they apply to the entire sentence.

9.8 Solidus (slash)

Use a slash to separate alternatives (“either/or”).

But use a hyphen for joint titles (“secretary-treasurer”).

The solidus should not be used to mean “and.” “FREN 101/102” means French 101 or 102, not French 101 and 102.

9.9 Spacing between sentences

Use one space, not two spaces, between the end punctuation of one sentence and the beginning of the next sentence.