Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University

Punctuation and Spelling

Accents and diacritics

Refer to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary for foreign accented words that have been imported into English. See also Appendix: Word list.

Generally use accents if using a foreign word or phrase that is not in the dictionary. Some words, such as in Aboriginal languages like Secwepemctsin, have special characters, accents and typographical renderings. In such cases, it is best to seek out a competent authority (e.g., Aboriginal Education). Some examples in regular use at TRU:

Métis
Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc (the band's spelling; the nation uses Secwepemc without accent)
Cplul'kw'ten
Weyt-k, le7 re7 stskits’c

Likewise for words in ideographic languages such as Chinese and Japanese that have been romanized, consult an authority (e.g., International Student Advisors at TRU World).

Ampersand

Avoid using the ampersand (&) in running text (body copy). The ampersand is acceptable in lists and as an element in registered company names, as in the second example.

Contact the dean of the School of Trades and Technology.
A&W

The ampersand is acceptable in job titles or the names of TRU academic or administrative units in lists, but not acceptable in running text.

As headers: School of Trades & Technology; Office of Environment & Sustainability 
In a sentence: Campus development is overseen by the Office of the Vice-President, Administration and Finance.

Hold the Oxford comma

Put commas between the elements of a series but not before the final “and,” “or” or “nor” (the so-called Oxford comma) unless that avoids confusion.

More than 500 scholarships, bursaries, prizes and awards are available.
Advising, Student Awards and Financial Aid, and Counselling are all on Student Street. 

Dashes and hyphens

An em dash (—), not an en dash (–) or hyphen (-), is used to set off a phrase in a sentence in much the same way as commas—as in this example—and parentheses. There should be no spaces before or after an em dash. Used like parentheses, em dashes can contain a statement with no grammatical connection to the rest of the sentence. An em dash is stronger than a comma to enclose.

More than 500 awards—over $1 million handed out each year—are available.

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

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

Please refer to pages 45–72.
Reception, 8–11 p.m.

Note: the key codes for an en dash are Ctrl+- for Windows and Option+- for Macintosh.

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

upper-level course
tenure-track position
President and Vice-Chancellor Alan Shaver

Use hyphens to indicate when two or more compound adjectives modify the same noun(s).

The course was open to second-, third- and fourth-year students.
Facilitate collaborative nursing- and health-related scholarship and research.

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.

“This generous gift… creates a sustainable model for student success…”

Note: the key codes for an ellipsis are Ctrl+Alt+. for Windows and Option+; for Macintosh.

Parentheses (brackets)

Use parentheses sparingly (only when other punctuation won’t do). Parentheses, like commas, are used to enclose non-essential information.

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

To register, first (a) create your timetable, (b) meet with an advisor and (c) access myTRU.

Use parentheses to enclose equivalents and translations.

Aboriginal services and resources are available at Cplul’kw’ten (the Gathering Place).

If a punctuation mark applies to the surrounding sentence, put it after the closing parenthesis, as in the above example. If a punctuation mark applies only to the words inside the parenthetical section, put the mark inside the closing parenthesis.

TRU provides Aboriginal students with many services and resources. (See tru.ca/aboriginal or visit the Gathering Place for more information.)

Square brackets are used to enclose words in quoted material that do not belong to the original quotation. In the following example, the writer clarified the speaker’s words by replacing “she” with the subject’s name.

“[Michelle] is very deserving of this award,” he said.

Square brackets are also used to insert [sic] into quoted material, to identify an error made by the author or speaker that you are reproducing.

The sign read, “Managers [sic] special: plum’s [sic] and peaches half price”. 

Quotation marks

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

“Our meeting ended late,” said Jo. “I said: ‘Can’t we shelve this for next month?’ but I was out-voted.”

Periods and commas go inside quotation marks; colons and semicolons go outside quotation marks. The question mark and exclamation mark go inside the quotation marks when they apply to the quoted matter only, as in the above example, but outside when they apply to the entire sentence, as in this example from the Chicago Manual of Style:

Which of Shakespeare’s characters said, “All the world’s a stage”?

Use double (not single) quotation marks around unfamiliar terms on first reference or to refer to words as words or letters as letters (as evidenced throughout this guide).

“Alumna” refers to an individual female graduate.
A “W” indicates a withdrawal from a course and is not calculated in your GPA.

“Scare quotes”

Using quotation marks to set off a significant word or phrase traditionally implies irony.

That “free webinar” turned out to be an advertising ploy with no useful information.

So-called scare quotes are overused and could be confusing, if irony could be misconstrued. “Free” in the example below could imply “stolen”.

“Free” textbooks—help yourself.

Avoid scare quotes (and accompanying finger gestures) by reworking the sentence (e.g., that so-called webinar), or if emphasis is what you’re after, make use of typeface and typestyle.

Quotations for work cited

Quotation marks are used around titles of poems, short fiction, article and chapter titles and other short works; italics are used for the titles of longer works. To cite such work in TRU communications, refer to the MLA Handbook. See Appendix: Citing using MLA format.

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.” “BIOL 3980/CHBI 3980” means BIOL 3980 or CHBI 3980, not BIOL 3980 and CHBI 3980.

Spacing between sentences

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