Writing with style

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  1. Use a hyphen to make a compound word or to join coequal nouns:

mother-in-law three-year-old scholar-athlete

  1. Use a hyphen to join words in compound numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine and with fractions:

Where to Break?
Words of one syllable may NEVER be divided, and multisyllable words may ONLY be divided between syllables.
wenty-nine forty-seven

two-thirds five-eighths

  1. Use a hyphen to divide a word at the end of a line, but only between syllables:

Wrong: The bird peered at Mr. McGillacudy with a pu-

zzled expression.

Right: The bird peered at Mr. McGillacudy with a puz-

zled expression.

  1. Use a hyphen to join a capital letter to a noun or participle:

R-rated movie T-bone steak Y-shaped U-turn

  1. Use a hyphen to join two or more words that serve as a single adjective before a noun:

best-known novel two-story building awe-inspiring speech

  1. In general, do not use a hyphen after a standard prefixes (e.g., anti-, co-, multi-, non-, over-, post-, pre-, re-, semi-, sub-, un-, under-):

multinational postwar antiestablishment coworker

nonjudgmental reinvent prescheduled unrelated

For other prefixes, or when in doubt, consult the dictionary (http://www.m-w.com)

Quotations and Quotation Marks

  1. Use quotation marks around text that is taken from another source, or to indicate a speaker’s exact words. When quoting material from another source, you must always include the citation for that source (See the section on MLA Citation Format for details on how to cite sources).

  1. To omit words from a quotation, use an ellipsis to represent the part of the text omitted. An ellipsis is typed as three periods with a single space before and after each one ( . . . ). When using an ellipsis at the end of a sentence, include a fourth period for the sentence’s end mark ( . . . .). You should never use an ellipsis to distort or change the meaning of the original text you are quoting.

“When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one

. . . had seen in at least ten years” (Faulkner, “A Rose for Emily”).

  1. Use brackets [like this] to enclose words you add or substitute to a quotation for the sake of clarity. Brackets are often used to replace a pronoun with the name of a character, for instance:

“Strange energy was in [Mr. Rochester’s] voice, strange fire in his look” (Bronte 133).

  1. To punctuate a quotation within a quotation, use single quotation marks to surround the inner quotation:

Steven said, “My favorite movie line is from Marlon Brando in The Godfather when he says, ‘I’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse.’”

  1. Periods and commas are always placed inside quotation marks:

“I’ve heard that line,” said Albert, “but I never saw the movie.”
However, the period at the end of a citation goes outside the final parentheses, not inside the quotation marks:

Lady Macbeth foreshadows her future insanity when she tells her husband: “These deeds must not be thought after these ways; so, it will make us mad” (2.2.45-46).

  1. An exclamation point or a question mark is placed outside the quotation marks when it punctuates the main sentence:

What do you suppose it means when a cannibal says, “Well, of course, you’re welcome to stay for dinner”?
It is placed inside the quotation marks when it punctuates only the quotation. [Note that no additional end punctuation is needed.]:

I almost croaked when he asked, “That won’t be a problem for you will it?”

  1. Semi-colons or colons are placed outside quotation marks:

Derek’s favorite Springsteen song is “Born to Run”; I prefer “Thunder Road.”

Punctuating Dialogue

  1. For dialogue, use quotation marks before and after the exact words of a speaker; place the comma inside the quotation marks when the speaker attribution follows the quotation:

“Your driver’s license says you should be wearing glasses,” said the traffic officer to the speeder.

  1. When the speaker attribution is given first, follow it with a comma. The direct quotation following it begins with a capital letter:

The speeding driver explained, “But I have contacts.”

  1. When a quoted sentence is divided into two parts by an interrupting expression or speaker attribution, begin the second part of the quotation with a lower case letter:

“I don’t care who you know,” the policeman replied, “because you’re getting a ticket anyway.”

  1. When a question mark or exclamation point is used as an end mark of a quotation, place the end mark inside the quotation marks. (Note that the sentence continues without capitalizing the first word after the end of the quotation):

“Who comes up with these lame jokes, anyway?” asked the bewildered student.

  1. When you write dialogue with two or more persons conversing, begin a new paragraph every time the speaker changes:

“That guy is great on the field,” said a college football scout to the player’s coach. “But how’s his scholastic work?”

“Why, he makes straight A’s,” replied the high school coach as they watched the player make tackle after tackle.

“Wonderful!” said the scout.

“Yes,” agreed the coach, “but his B’s are a little crooked.”

Incorporating Quotations Into Your Writing

  1. Work a short quotation (up to four typed lines of your page) directly into the text of your paper and put quotation marks around it. [Note that the period at the end of the quotation goes outside the final parentheses of the citation]:

“To be, or not to be, that is the question” (3.1.57). This familiar statement expresses the young prince’s moral dilemma in William Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.

  1. For quotations that are longer than four typed lines of your page, use a block quotation format. Indent the entire quotation one inch from the left margin. Do not change the right margin. Because you have indented the quoted material, you do NOT use quotation marks around it as well.

Based on rumors and gossip, the children of Maycomb speculate about Boo Radley’s appearance:


To block or not to block?
Determine a prose quotation’s length by the number of lines it takes up on your paper’s typed page, NOT in the original source!

oo was about six-and-a-half feet tall, judging from his tracks; he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch, that’s why his hands were bloodstained—if you ate an animal raw, you could never wash the blood off. There was a long jagged scar that ran across his face; what teeth he had were yellow and rotten; his eyes popped, and he drooled most of the time. (Lee 13)

  1. Use a block quotation format when quoting dialogue between two or more speakers:

During the trial scene, Bob Ewell immediately shows his disrespect for both the court and his family:

“Are you the father of Mayella Ewell?” was the next question.

“Well, if I ain’t I can’t do nothing about it now, her ma’s dead,” was the answer. (Lee 172)

  1. Also use block quotation format when quoting dialogue between speakers in a play:

Mama compares her children to a beloved plant:

Mama (looking at her plant and sprinkling a little water on it): They spirited all right, my children. Got to admit they got spirit—Bennie and Walter. Like this little old plant that ain’t never had enough sunshine or nothing—and look at it. . .

Ruth (trying to keep Mama from noticing): You . . . sure . . . loves that little old thing, don’t you? (Hansberry 335)

Formatting Block Quotations
To format a block quotation, first type the entire quotation into your document. Then use the mouse to select the block of text you wish to indent. Using the ruler at the top of the page, move the Left Indent setting one inch. Alternatively, your program may have an Increase Indent button on the toolbar. Press it once for each tab indent you wish to add.

Quoting Poetry

  1. W
    Capitalized Lines
    If the original text uses capital letters at the beginning of each line, as in these examples, keep the same capitalization in your document.
    hen quoting two or three lines of poetry, use a forward slash [/] with one space on each side to show where each line ends. Using the format for a short quotation (see previous section), work the lines directly into the text of your paper using quotation marks. [Note that the period at the end of the quotation goes outside the final parentheses of the citation]:

Juliet’s innocence soon turns to passion when she tells Romeo in the balcony scene, “My bounty is as boundless as the sea, / My love as deep; the more I give to thee, / The more I have, for both are infinite” (1.2.141-43).

  1. When quoting more than three lines of poetry, use a block quotation format. [Remember, no quotation marks!]:

Mercutio shows his sarcasm about love when he mocks Romeo’s lovesickness for Rosaline:

Romeo! humors! madman! passion! lover!

Appear thou in the likeness of a sigh;

Speak but one rhyme, and I am satisfied!

Cry but “Ay me!” pronounce but “love” and “dove.” (2.1.9-12)

  1. When the quotation you are using begins in the middle of a line, position the partial line as it appears in the text:

When the exiled Romeo draws his dagger, Friar Lawrence scolds,

Hold thy desperate hand.

Art thou a man? Thy form cries out thou art;

Thy tears are womanish, thy wild acts denote

The unreasonable fury of a beast. (3.3.118-121)


it’s or its?
It’s = it is

Its = belonging to it

These two words are commonly confused.

Its is a possessive form, like his or hers—no apostrophe is needed.

  1. Use an apostrophe to signify letter(s) left out of a word to form a contraction:

don’t = do n[o]t she’d = she [woul]d

it’s = it [i]s

  1. Use an apostrophe to signify one or more numbers left out of numerals or words that are spelled as they are actually spoken:

class of ’02 “Good mornin’!”


  1. Add an apostrophe and an s to form the possessive of singular nouns, even if the noun ends in s:

Bob Dylan’s voice the kiss’s meaning Dickens’s novels

  1. Add only an apostrophe to form the possessive of plural nouns ending in s. If the plural does not end in s, add ‘s to form the possessive:

the Joneses’ father the Padres’ last game children’s library

  1. For the possessive form of a compound noun or an indefinite pronoun, place an apostrophe and an s after the last word:

mother-in-law’s apartment Secretary of State’s telephone

everybody’s someone else’s anyone’s

  1. Possessive personal pronouns (his, hers, its, ours, yours, theirs and the relative pronoun whose) do not require an apostrophe.

  1. Remember that the word immediately before the apostrophe is the owner:

parent’s car = one parent owns boss’ office = one boss owns

parents’ car = two parents own bosses’ office = many bosses own

When ownership is shared, the apostrophe is also shared; use the possessive form only on the last item in a series to indicate shared ownership:

Caitlin, Chris, and Joshua’s house = the house is shared by all three

When ownership is individual, each noun in a series gets its own individual apostrophe and s:

Caitlin’s, Chris’s, and Joshua’s jackets = each has his or her own jacket



  1. Capitalize the first word of a sentence.

Marco loves to slam dance.

  1. Capitalize the first word of a full-sentence direct quotation:

When Joe made it to first base, his coach screamed, “Run to second!”
Lady Macbeth foreshadows her future insanity when she tells her husband: “These deeds must not be thought after these ways; so, it will make us mad” (2.2.45-46).

Proper Nouns

Capitalize all proper nouns (those which name a specific person, place, or thing), including:

  1. Names of people and official titles, either written before a name or used in place of the proper noun:

Keanu Reeves President John Kennedy Alexander the Great

“Mr. President, will you answer questions at the press conference?”

“Not if I can help it, Senator.”

  1. Geographical Names:

    1. towns, cities, states, capitals, countries, and continents:

Dallas Australia Russia New York

    1. sections of the country or a continent:

the South the Midwest the Middle East

    1. streets, roads, highways:

Interstate 5 Route 66 Park Avenue

    1. land forms and bodies of water:

Lake Havasu Iberian Peninsula Sahara Desert

  1. Languages, races, nationalities, and religions:

French Inuit European Islam

Also capitalize nouns referring to the Supreme Being and holy books:

God Allah the Lord the Bible the Torah

  1. Days of the week, months, holidays, or holy days:

This year, Hanukkah begins on Friday, December 6, and Christmas is on a Monday.

  1. Historical time periods, events in history, and special events:

Renaissance Vietnam War Kentucky Derby Senior Prom

  1. Names of organizations, associations, and teams:

San Diego Padres Daughters of the American Revolution

Greenpeace Republican Party

  1. Capitalize the first, last, and all other words in titles except for articles, short prepositions, and coordinating conjunctions:

The Taming of the Shrew Gone with the Wind

To Kill a Mockingbird Los Angeles Times

Crime and Punishment “Twist and Shout”

Punctuating Titles


Italicize or Underline?
Italics is a term for a slanted type style. Before word-processors, writers would underline the words in a typed or hand-written manuscript that they wanted printed in italics when the document was published.
Today, italics are preferred to underlining when word-processing documents. However, when hand-writing or using a typewriter, underlining still stands in for italicized type.
Whichever you decide to use, only use one or the other throughout your document, and NEVER use both!
or underline the titles of long works that are published or released by themselves, such as movies, books, record albums, CD’s, magazines, newspapers, full-length plays, operas, pamphlets, book-length poems, long musical compositions, legal cases, and the names of ships and aircraft:

Romeo and Juliet (play)

Washington Post (newspaper)

Seventeen (magazine)

Saving Private Ryan (movie)

Quit Smoking Now (pamphlet)

Titanic (ship)

Law and Order (television program)

The Four Seasons (musical composition)

Use quotation marks around the titles of short works that are likely to be published or released as part of a larger work, such as chapters of books; short stories; poems; songs; articles in a magazine, newspaper, and encyclopedia; and episodes of a radio or television program:

“To Build a Fire” (short story)

“Partners in Crime” (episode of The Cosby Show)

“Alien Triplets!” (article in the National Inquirer)

“Rocky Raccoon” (song on the Beatles’ White Album)

Other Uses for Italics

  1. Use italics to indicate a number, letter, or word that is being discussed or used in a special way. You may also use quotation marks:

Is there an e or an a at the end of cemetery?

  1. Use italics for foreign words or phrases that are not part of everyday speech.

The Cavalier poets lived by the motto “Carpe diem!”, or “Seize the day!”

Dates and Time

  1. Capitalize the days of the week and months. Each of the following formats is acceptable:

December 31, 1999 31 December 1999

  1. When writing a date within a sentence, place a comma after the day of the week, the date, and the year:

On Wednesday, January 1, 2000, I will be eighteen years old!

  1. When only the month and day or only the month and year are given, no punctuation is necessary:

We began rehearsals on December 10 but performed in January 1997.

  1. When writing out times, use the numeral and a colon between the hour and minutes. Write only the hour if there are no minutes. Indicate morning or evening with the abbreviations a.m. and p.m. Note that both abbreviations are lower case and that a period is place after each letter:

Meet me at the subway station at 7 p.m. because the movie starts at 8:10.


  1. Spell out numbers of one or two words; numbers of more than two words are usually written as numerals.

ten twenty-five fifty thousand 3 ½ 101 2,020

  1. Use numerals to express numbers in the following forms: dates, pages, chapters, decimals, percents, addresses, time, identification numbers, and statistics.

June 8, 1996 44 BC AD 79 3:30 p.m.

pages 29-37 chapter 7 Interstate 5 Spanish 7

27.6 2 percent a vote of 23 to 4

1388 County Road 35 m.p.h. 5 milliliters

  1. When a number begins a sentence, always spell it out:

Two hundred thirty people claimed to have seen UFOs in Alaska in 1996.

Nineteen ninety-two was an incredible year for tracking paranormal behavior.
However, if this creates awkward sentence structure, change the sentence:

Eight hundred and ninety-five people say they have talked to aliens within the last five years.

Within the last five years, 895 people say they have talked to aliens.

  1. When numbers are used frequently in a document, such as in scientific and technical writing, you may express all measurements as numerals:

In 4 experiments of psychic phenomenon, 79 percent of the couples could predict the correct sum of money 2 out of 3 times.

  1. When a mixture of numbers—some one or two words, some longer—are used together, they should be kept in the same style:

How could a team of 5 couples discover what an association of 2,250 scientists and economists could not?

  1. You may use a combination of words and numerals for very large numbers:

1.5 million 3 billion to 3.2 billion 25 million dollars

Directory: projects -> edtechcentral -> writingwstyle
projects -> The bibliography of the principal books, mss., Etc. Quoted in the dictionary list of abbreviations, Etc. Used in the bibliography
projects -> We’ll be starting as close to the scheduled time as possible
projects -> Learning Unit 7 – Essay Structure Reading Material
projects -> Love is a battlefield
projects -> Language Learning in Intercultural Perspective“
projects -> Styles in Philosophy: the Case of Carnap1
projects -> Managing assessment reform Jo-Anne Baird Professor of Educational Assessment Policy proliferation
projects -> 1992, July 18. Groping at Atoms: Virtual Reality, 324, 87-89
projects -> Avoiding plagiarism This guide aims to help you to understand what plagiarism is in the context of academic work and offers guidance on how to avoid it. What is plagiarism?
writingwstyle -> Writing with style

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