Peculiarities of prose style

M.A.'s and Ph.D.'s x's and y's S's, A's, I's SOS's

8.4 When you can do it without creating confusion, use s alone to form the plural of letters, figures, words treated as words, and hyphenated coinages used as nouns:

three Rs four 8sthey came in twos the 1980s a dozen ifs

9. Italics

9.1 Use italics (sparingly) to emphasize a word or phrase:

The GET command inserts dat

a from the current line forward, so the user must be sure to make the appropriate line the current line before entering this command.

9.2 Use italics to identify a letter treated as a letter or a word treated as a word:

The word eyes appears twice in the first line of the poem.

9.3 Use italics to identify foreign words or phrases not yet absorbed into English.

10. Titles

10.1 Italicize (or underline) the titles of books, magazines, journals, newspapers, plays, operas, films, television shows, radio programs, and long poems.

10.2 Enclose in quotation marks the titles of short poems, essays, magazine articles, newspaper columns, short stories, songs, speeches, and chapters of books.

In journalism, see the following entries in the Associated Press Stylebook: "composition titles," "magazine names," "newspaper names." In summary, these entries indicate that most composition titles (books, plays, songs, television shows, etc.) should be enclosed in quotation marks but not in italics. Newspaper and magazine titles, however, should neither be italicized nor enclosed in quotation marks.

11. Numbers

11.1 Spell out a number when it begins a sentence.

11.2 Spell out a number that can be written in one or two words (except as noted in 11.3) and 11.5):

three twenty-two five thousand one million

11.3 If numbers that can be written as one or two words cluster closely together in the sentence, use numerals instead:

The ages of the members of the city council are 69, 64, 58, 54,47, 45, and 35.

11.4 Use numerals if spelling out a number would require more than two words:


11.5 Use numerals for addresses, dates, exact times of day, exact sums of money, exact measurements (including miles per hour), game scores, mathematical ratios, and page numbers:

55 mph ratio of 4-to-1 $6.75 p. 37

In journalism, see the numerals entry in the Associated Press Stylebook.

12. Quotation Marks

12.1 Use double quotation marks to create irony by setting off words you don't take at face value:

The "debate" resulted in three cracked heads and two broken noses.

12.2 Do not use quotation marks to create emphasis (see 9.1).

12.3 Use single quotation marks to enclose a quotation within a quotation:

At the beginning of the class, the professor asked, "What does Kuhn mean by 'paradigm shifts,' and what is their relationship to normal science?"

12.4 If the quotation will take more than four lines on the page, use indentation instead of quotation marks to indicate that the passage is a quotation. Introduce the quotation with a colon, set it off from the rest of the text by triple-spacing (assuming the rest of the text is double-spaced), indent ten spaces from the left margin, and single-space the quoted passage. To indicate a new paragraph within the quoted material, indent an additional three spaces.

12.5 Do not use quotation marks with indirect discourse, or with rhetorical, unspoken, or imaginary questions:

Frank said he was sorry he couldn't be here.

Why am I doing this? she wondered.

13. Punctuating Quotations

13.1 Do not use a comma to mark the end of a quoted sentence that is followed by an identifying tag if the quoted sentence ends in a question mark or an exclamation point:

"Get out!" he screamed.

13.2 Commas and periods go inside closing quotation marks; semicolons and colons go outside the closing quotation marks:

Peter's response was "Money is no object," but the lawyer was still unwilling to accept his case.

The senator announced, "I will not seek reelection"; then he left the room.

13.3 Place a question mark or an exclamation point inside the closing quotation marks only if it belongs to the quotation rather than to the larger sentence:

Lenin's question was "What is to be done?" Should the U.S. support governments that it considers "moderately repressive"?

Wherever you use the question mark or exclamation point, do not use a period with it (see 18.1).

13.4 Use square brackets to enclose interpolations, corrections, or comments in a quoted passage. In journalism, use parentheses ( ) for this purpose.

14. Introducing Indented Quotations, Vertical Lists, and Formulas

The punctuation immediately following the introduction to an indented quotation, vertical list, or formula is determined by the grammatical structure of the introduction. Essentially, you should follow the same rules described in section 3 and section 1.2 even though the material you're introducing is set off from the rest of the sentence.

14.1 If the introduction is a main clause (a clause that could stand by itself as a complete sentence), follow it with a colon:

Each member of the expedition was asked to supply the following equipment:

·  a sleeping bag

·  a mess kit

·  a propane stove

·  a backpack

14.2 If the introductory element is not a main clause, follow it with a comma if one is required by the rule given in section 1.2:

According to Gene Fowler, "Writing is easy: all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead."

14.3 If the introduction is not a main clause and a comma is not required by the rule given in section 1.2, follow it with no punctuation at all:

In Philosophy and Physics, Werner Heisenberg points out that "The change in the concept of reality manifesting itself in quantum theory is not simply a continuation of the past; it seems to be a real break in the structure of modern science."

14.4 If you're uncomfortable with an unpunctuated introduction, try converting it into a main clause and using a colon:

In Philosophy and Physics, Werner Heisenberg makes the following observation about the effect of quantum theory on modern science:

15. Punctuating Vertical Lists

15.1 The items in an vertical list may be preceded by sequential numbers or bullets (usually dots or asterisks), or they may stand alone. Depending on their grammatical structure, the items are followed by periods, semicolons, commas, or no punctuation at all. The Chicago Manual of Style offers the following simple rules: "Omit periods after items in a vertical list unless one or more of the items are complete sentences. If the vertical list completes a sentence begun in an introductory element, the final period is also omitted unless the items in the list are separated by commas or semi-colons."

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