In a series or list, do not use a comma before the conjunction.

  • Example: The students came from California, Colorado, Maryland and Nebraska.

Do not use a comma to separate two independent sentences; use a semicolon.

  • Example: The snow started to fall during the night; the morning commute was awful.

Use a comma before a conjunction when it connects two independent sentences.

  • Example: A typical master’s degree takes two years, but many universities offer accelerated master’s degree programs.

Do not use a comma before a conjunction connecting a dependent clause to an independent clause.

  • Example: Some people complete their master’s degree in one year because of the program’s structure.


Use a colon to introduce lists.

  • Example: Include the following documents in your application: completed application, personal essay and three letters of recommendation.

Capitalize the words immediately following the colon only if it is the beginning of a complete sentence or proper noun.

  • Example: The professor promised this: If every student earned a B on the exam, there would be no final report due at the end of the semester.

Use a colon to introduce long quotes.

Do not use a colon with a verb. 

  • Example:
      (Incorrect) Admission requirements are:
      (Correct) Admission requirements: -or- The admission requirements are as follows: 


Use a semicolon in a series or list when items in the series are long or contain material that must be set apart by commas.

  • Example: Faculty conduct research in molecular and cellular pathology and toxicology; drug delivery systems; protein structure and delivery; cancer, heart, lung and blood diseases; and alcohol and drug abuse.

Use a semicolon to connect two independent sentences without a conjunction.

    • Example: The paper is due next week; she submitted it today.


Use an em dash (longer) to mark a break in thought.

  • Example: He will travel to Europe this summer – if he passes all of his classes. Insert space on each side of the em dash.

Use an en dash (shorter) to indicate a range (it replaces the word through).

  • Example: 1–10. Do not insert spaces on either side of dashes.


See the hyphenation section in this style guide for usage and rules.


Use a period at the end of a sentence.

Quotation Marks

Punctuation always goes inside quotation marks.

  • Example: Professor Smith said, “Classes are canceled next week.”