Peculiarities of prose style

All soldiers who are overweight will be forced to resign.

Nonrestrictive modifiers are parenthetical. That is, they digress, amplify, or explain, but are not essential to the meaning of the sentence. These modifiers simply provide additional information for the reader—information which, although it may be interesting, does not restrict the meaning of the sentence and can be removed without

changing the sentence's essential meaning:

Sgt. Price, who is overweight, will be forced to resign.

(b) Use commas to set off parenthetical elements that retain a close logical relationship to the rest of the sentence. Use dashes or parentheses to set off parenthetical elements whose logical relationship to the rest of the sentence is more remote (compare 4.2 and 5.1).

1.4 Use commas to join items in a series. Except in journalism, this includes a comma before the conjunction that links the last item to the rest of the series:

Before making a decision, he studied the proposition, interviewed many of the people concerned, and tried to determine if there were any historical precedents.

1.5 Although not called for by any of the above principles, commas are sometimes required to avoid the confusion of mistaken junction:

She recognized the man who entered the room, and gasped.

2. Semicolons

2.1 Use a semicolon to join two independent clauses that are closely related in meaning and are not joined by a coordinating conjunction (compare 1.1):

A filemode digit of 3 identifies a temporary file; temporary files are deleted automatically after being read.

2.2 Use a semicolon to join two independent clauses when the second one begins with or includes a conjunctive adverb (nevertheless, therefore, however, otherwise, as a result, etc.) (compare 1.3):

If CMS is waiting, the entry will be processed immediately; otherwise, it will be queued until requested.

2.3 To avoid confusion, use semicolons to separate items in a series when one or more of the items includes commas (see also 1.1c):

This manual also summarizes the Graduate School's mechanical requirements for theses; discusses the special requirements of students who are submitting computer programs as theses; reviews basic principles of punctuation, mechanics, and style; and refers student s to standard references on punctuation, mechanics, style, and usage.

3. Colons

3.1 Use a colon to introduce a list, an example, an amplification, or an explanation directly related to something just mentioned (compare 4.1) and 4.4):

The user may work from one of three modes when typing data into the file area: edit mode, input mode, or power typing. He eventually found that there was only one way to get the quality he expected from the people who worked for him: treat them with respect.

3.2 Use a colon to introduce a formal statement or quotation (usually of more than one line):

Writers who care about the quality of their work would do well to heed Samuel Johnson's advice: What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.

4. Dashes

If your word-processor doesn't have an em-dash (a dash that is the width of a capital M) in its special character set, use two hyphens (--) to make a dash. Whichever one you use, except in journalism, you should leave no space between or on either side of the dash itself. Dashes are more widely accepted today than they were in the past; however, many writers and editors still consider them to be somewhat less formal marks of punctuation—use them sparingly.

4.1 Use a dash to introduce a summarizing word, phrase, or clause, such as an appositive (a noun set beside another noun and identifying or explaining it) (compare 3.1):

The strikers included plumbers, electricians, carpenters, truck drivers—all kinds of workers.

4.2 Use dashes to mark off a parenthetical element that represents an abrupt break in thought. Dashes give more emphasis to the enclosed element than do either commas or parentheses (compare 5.1):

Reagan's sweep of the South—he won every state but Georgia—was the most humiliating defeat for Carter.

4.3 To avoid confusion, use dashes to mark off parenthetical elements that contain internal commas:

Seven of our first twelve presidents—Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Harrison, Tyler, and Taylor—were from Virginia.

4.4 Dashes can be used as a less formal alternative to the colon to introduce an example, explanation, or amplification (see 3.1).

For more on the use of dashes in journalism, see the entry on dashes in the Guide to Punctuation in the Associated Press Stylebook.

5. Parentheses

5.1 (a) Use parentheses to enclose parenthetical elements (words, phrases, or complete sentences that digress, amplify, or explain) (compare 1.3b) and 4.2).

When APL is on (indicated by the letters APL appearing at the bottom of the screen), no lower-case characters are available.

(b) A parenthesized sentence that appears within another sentence need not begin with a capital or end with a period.

(c) A comma may follow the closing parenthesis (if needed), but one should not precede the opening parenthesis.

5.2 Except in journalism, use square brackets [ ] to enclose a parenthetical element within a parenthetical element.

6. Ellipsis Dots

6.1 Use three dots

(a) to signal the omission of a word or words from the middle of a quoted sentence:

A senior White House official again asserted the administration's position: "We will not negotiate any treaty with the Soviets . . .unless it is verifiable."

(b) to signal hesitation or halting speech in dialogue:

"I . . . don't know what to say," he whispered.

6.2 Use four dots

(a) to signal the omission of the end of a quoted sentence:

"Of all our maladies, the most barbarous is to despise our being. . . . For my part, I love life and cultivate it."

— Montaigne

(b) to signal the omission of one or more whole sentences.

Except in journalism, ellipses dots should be spaced ( . . . vs. …).

7. Hyphens

7.1 To express the idea of a unit and to avoid ambiguity, hyphenate compound nouns and compound modifiers that precede a noun:

She was a scholar-athlete.

All-night terminal sessions are counterproductive.

The IBM 4250 printer has all-points-addressable graphics capabilities.

7.2 Use a hyphen between the components of any number (including fractions) below one hundred that is written as two words: thirty-five two-thirds

8. Apostrophes

8.1 Use apostrophe, s ('s) to indicate singular possessive:

Users keep turning on to IBM's VM operating system.

8.2 Use s, apostrophe (s') to indicate plural possessive:

We found the missing tools in the boys' clubhouse.

8.3 Use apostrophe, s ('s) to form the plural of abbreviations with periods, lowercase letters used as nouns, and capital letters that would be confusing if s alone were added:

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