Editorial Style

Advice on how to punctuate properly.

Bullet points (lists)

For a list that contains full sentences:

  • Always use a lead-in line, ending with a colon.
  • Ensure that each bullet item is a full sentence.
  • Start each bullet item (sentence) with an uppercase letter.
  • Use a full stop at the end of each bullet item.

For a list whose bullet points are not full sentences:

  • introduce the list with a lead-in line (that ends with a colon)
  • ensure that each bullet point makes sense reading on from the lead-in line
  • use a consistent form/structure for each bullet point
  • start each bullet point with a lowercase letter
  • omit punctuation at the end of individual bullet points, including the last


Use square brackets [ ] only in a quotation to indicate an interpolation or explanatory note by the writer or editor.

  • In his speech, the prime minister said: “I especially want to thank [Foreign Minister] Frederick Patterson for drafting this bill.”
  • According to a witness, “the protesters burned several [American] flags on the courthouse steps.”


Use a colon between two sentences (or parts of sentences) if the first introduces a proposition that is resolved by the second.

Use a colon, not a comma, to introduce a quotation or to precede a list.


Use a comma (often called a “serial comma” or “Oxford comma”) before the final “and” in a list of three or more items.

  • The flag is red, white, and blue.
  • The caps are available in red and white, yellow, and blue.
  • This book is dedicated to my mother, my best friend, and my wife.
  • … a government of the people, by the people, and for the people


Use an ellipsis (three dots with no spaces between them) to indicate the omission of a word or words in quoted matter. Use a space both before and after an ellipsis. Do not add a full stop if the ellipsis ends a sentence; do use a full stop at the end of a sentence that immediately precedes an ellipsis, however, to denote the omission of text between that sentence and the next.

  • “She didn’t want to jump off the ledge of the burning building. … But eventually, she did.”
  • “Congress shall make no law respecting … the right of the people peaceably to assemble …”


When deciding whether or not to hyphenate a term, follow the form given in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary or the Oxford Dictionaries website.

For words not listed in the dictionary, write as one word wherever possible: for example, “macroeconomics”, “multicultural”, “underrepresented” (not “macro-economics”, “multi-cultural”, “under-represented”).

Use a hyphen for compound adjectives and adverbs that modify a following noun, except when the first word is an adverb ending in “-ly” :

  • a two-year programme, well-established principles, an ill-prepared report, a hands-on approach
  • a constantly evolving paradigm, genetically modified organisms, a partially completed task

For a compound adjective whose meaning is clear, no hyphen is needed: for example, “the civil rights movement”, “the financial services sector”. If there is potential for confusion, however, use a hyphen to clarify: for example, “a small-state representative” vs “a small state-representative”; “a violent-weather conference” vs “a violent weather-conference”; “forty-year-old documents” vs “forty year-old-documents”.

Quotation Marks

See Quotations.