Word Punctuation

ABC . . .

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Capital Letters

Capital letters are used in the following ways:

The Apostrophe

The apostrophe is used in the following ways:

The Hyphen

The hyphen is used in the following ways:

Italics

For handwritten manuscripts, indicate italics by underlining. Only manuscripts that are printed use italic script.

Italics are used in the following ways:

Abbreviations and Acronyms

Many abbreviations are becoming increasingly acceptable in every kind of writing. The extent to which a writer uses abbreviations depends on the field and audience for which he or she is writing.

Students writing expository prose for an English course are advised to check with their instructor/marker as to which abbreviations he or she accepts.

The following abbreviations are generally permitted in formal writing:

etc.
e.g.
i.e.
Dr.
Mr.
Mrs.
B.A.
M.A.
Ph.D.
B.C.
A.D.
U.S.S.R.
U.S.A.
a.m.
p.m.
mph
km
Mb
—and so forth (Latin et cetera)
—for example (Latin exempli gratia)
—that is (Latin id est)
—doctor
—mister
—married woman
—bachelor of arts degree
—master of arts degree
—doctor of philosophy degree
—before Christ
—after Christ
—Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
—the United States of America
—before noon (Latin ante meridiem)
—after noon (Latin post meridiem)
—miles per hour
—kilometre
—megabyte

Acronyms are permitted for the names of agencies, organizations, corporations, and people normally referred to by their initials. The first reference should make it clear what the acronym stands for: for example, “The YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association) has put in a new fitness centre.”

Agencies: FBI, CIA
Organizations: YWCA, UN, IRA
Corporations: IBM, CBC, BBC
People: JFK, FDR, JR

Numbers

Whether a writer uses words or figures in his or her writing depends on the conventions of the field for which the writer is writing. Students are advised to observe writings from different fields, to check in style manuals published for those fields, and to remain consistent with whatever conventions they choose. Needless to say, students writing a paper for an English course will use more words than figures than will a student writing a paper for a science course.

The following conventions are guidelines for students writing expository prose:

Words

Figures

Contracted Verb Forms

Contracted verb forms are the norm in spoken and informal written English. However, in academic writing, contracted forms should be avoided. It is never wrong to use full verb forms in formal, expository prose.

If the government had taken heed of earlier research, the fish-stocks would not have become so depleted. (formal)
If the government’d taken heed of earlier research, the fish-stocks wouldn’t’ve become so depleted. (informal)
The communitarian movement is not a political party like the Green Party; it is an informal association of like-minded people. (formal)
The communitarian movement’s not a political party like the Green Party; it’s an informal association of like-minded people. (informal)
The coordinator will be submitting a report which will provide details of her role in the project. (formal)
The coordinator’ll be submitting a report which’ll provide details of her role in the project. (informal)

Errors with Contracted Verbs

Beware of phonetic spelling. We are very used to hearing, but many of us are not so used to seeing, contracted verb forms.

They would have left the party had their car started. (formal)
They would’ve left the party had their car started. (informal)
They would of left the party had their car started. (incorrect)
Without the tutor, Sheila would not have passed the course. (formal)
Without the tutor, Sheila wouldn’t’ve passed the course. (informal)
Without the tutor, Sheila wouldn’t of passed the course. (incorrect)
If I had known you were coming, I would have prepared something. (formal)
If I’d known you were coming, I’d’ve prepared something. (informal)
If I’d of known you were coming, I’d’of prepared something. (incorrect)
You should not have lied. (formal)
You shouldn’t’ve lied. (informal)
You shouldn’t of lied. (incorrect)