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ampersand (and); &

Do not use the ampersand (&) in running text. The only exception to using an ampersand in running text is if it is included in a well-known branded entity, such as AT&T, M&Ms, Ben & Jerry's, U.S. News & World Report.

The ampersand may be used in running headers, footers, and tabular matter only such as part of an official name UMass college, school, department, or center that uses the ampersand in its tier-2 or tier-3 branding. Examples:

  • Asian Languages & Literatures
  • Judaic & Near Eastern Studies
  • Center for Applied Mathematics & Computation


An apostrophe indicates that letters have been omitted, or indicates possessive case or plurals.


Use an apostrophe with the year of graduation—a true apostrophe, not an inch mark—as in:

  • class of ’21
  • Michael Doyle ’56


Use ’s to form the possessive of singular nouns

  • my dog’s leash
  • Susan’s library books

Use ’s to form the possessive of plural nouns that don’t end in “s”:

  • children’s hospital
  • university’s degree programs

For singular common nouns that end in "s," use an apostrophe plus “s”.

The bus's windows were broken.

Use ’s for collective nouns and proper nouns ending in “s”:

  • Dr. Seuss’s poetry
  • Congress’s vote on the amendment
  • Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities

UMass’s and Massachusetts’s are technically correct but, since they’re awkward, it’s best to re-work the sentence.


Plural nouns are apostrophe only at end of word.

  • All students' clubs and organizations have an annual budget.

Do not use an apostrophe when forming plural figures, as in:

  • the late 1800s
  • the early ’50s; late 1950s

Use ’s in master’s and bachelor’s degrees. Never use masters’ degrees.


Colons separate major parts of sentences, or they introduce a quotation or a list.

Insert a colon after “as follows” or “the following.” Capitalize the first word after the colon if what comes after it is a complete sentence. Otherwise, don’t. Examples:

  • Students, please note the following: Bring your notebooks and laptops to class.
  • Students were instructed to bring the following: notebooks and laptops.

Use a colon to introduce a direct quotation. Example:

  • I received an email that said: “Your essay on Shakespeare is two days late.”


Use commas to separate elements in a series, including the element preceded by “and” (which is referred to as a serial or Oxford comma). Example:

  • By now she had taken exams in algebra, trigonometry, and calculus.

Commonly related elements are not separated by punctuation. Examples:

  • The committee considered initiatives in community service learning, recruitment and retention, and research and development.

Use a comma to separate the elements of a location. Example:

  • Alumnus Jack Roulette, who grew up in Worcester, Mass., now lives in Reno, Nev.

Commas and periods go inside double quotation marks; colons and semicolons outside them. Examples:

  • “I’ve heard enough,” said the director.
  • The marching band likes to play “Maria.”
  • At reunion, Eliot gave a memorable rendition of “You Gotta Have Heart”; Greta was his inspired accompanist.

Use a comma with numbers greater than one thousand. Example:

1,200 or 1,343,000, and the like


Dashes separate parts of a sentence and can serve several functions. There are two kinds of dashes used most often in promotional, formal, or general written communication.

  • em dash

The em dash can indicate a strong break in a sentence, as in the first example below. Or it can be used to show emphasis, as in the second example, usually used in pairs. The em dash can be used in place of colons, commas, or parentheses, depending on the context. Note there is no space on either side of the dash. Examples:

  • I like green vegetables—like broccoli, kale, and chard.
  • My family has lived in Massachusetts for six generations—long before it became known as the Bay State—and we plan to stay here for many more.

In Microsoft Word, create an em dash by pressing Ctrl, Alt, and the minus sign on the number keypad all at the same time. (You can also set your Preferences to convert a double hyphen to an em dash.) Mac Pages users, press Shift, Option, and the minus key at the same time.

  • en dash

The en dash separates a range of dates, times, or numbers. Again, don’t insert a space before or after the dash. Examples:

  • President Obama’s term was 2009–2017.
  • Homecoming Weekend will be held Sept. 12–14.

In Microsoft Word, create an en dash by pressing Ctrl and the minus sign on the number keypad at the same time. Mac Pages users, press Option and the minus key at the same time.


An ellipsis is a series of three dots that indicates the omission of a word, phrase, or even a paragraph from a quoted passage.

  • Indicate an omission within a quotation by using an ellipsis (three periods between words that should be treated like a three-letter word). Example:

    “Every fall ... we boil down maple sap to make syrup.”

  • When omitting something after a complete sentence, add a period at the end of the sentence followed by a space and then the ellipsis (three periods without spaces between them). Example:

    “At UMass Amherst, we are committed to the educational and social development of our students ... We keep this commitment in mind as we develop our courses and special programs.”

exclamation point

The Chicago Manual of Style recommends using exclamation points sparingly. Mostly, they should be used with an emphatic or ironic statement. Examples:

  • Look out!
  • It was 110 degrees in Venice, FL, today. Here in Massachusetts, we should be so lucky!


The Chicago Manual of Style recommends “a spare hyphenation style” unless a hyphen is needed to prevent misunderstanding or confusion. This pertains to nouns as well as adjectives. For example, we no longer need to hyphenate words such as “fundraising” and “groundbreaking.”

Use a hyphen:

With prefixes:

  • If the word that follows a prefix begins with a capital letter
  • With the prefixes ex-, self-, and all-, as in ex-president, self-control, all-consuming
  • With the prefix co-, such as co-founder and co-director
  • When the last letter of the prefix and the first letter of the next word are the same, as in pre-engineering
  • With terms such as non-credit and non-discrimination
  • When used as adjectives, such as part-time or full-time

To join two or more words that create an adjective describing a noun. Examples:

  • well-worn jeans
  • vine-ripened tomatoes
  • one-way street

With “in-person” when it is used as an adjective, as in “We’ll be attending an in-person English class.”

Note: When leaving out the second half of a hyphenated term, keep the hyphen but leave a space. Examples:

  • 5- to 8-year-olds
  • single- or double-occupancy

Rules for hyphenated compounds in headlines and titles (taken from The Chicago Manual of Style):

Always capitalize the first element.

  • Capitalize any subsequent elements unless they are articles, prepositions, coordinating conjunctions (andbutforornor), or such modifiers as flat or sharp following musical key symbols.
  • If the first element is merely a prefix or combining form that could not stand by itself as a word (anti-, pre-, co-, etc.), do not capitalize the second element unless it is a proper noun or proper adjective.
  • Capitalize the second element in a hyphenated spelled-out number (Twenty-One or Twenty-First, etc.) or hyphenated simple fraction (Two-Thirds in Two-Thirds Majority).

Do NOT hyphenate:

Compound modifiers that come after a noun, as in:

  • The jeans were well worn.
  • The tomatoes were tree ripened.
  • This street is one way.

Adverbs ending in -ly, such as:

  • highly qualified applicant
  • beautifully painted portrait

The terms “vice president” or “nonprofit”

The terms “full time” and “part time” when they are not used as adjectives, such as “I work full time in a grocery store after school.”

The term “in person” when not used as an adjective, as in “We’ll be attending the English class in person.”

For a comprehensive list of words that should be hyphenated, see The Chicago Manual of Style, section 7.89 Hyphenation Guide.


Use a single space after the period at the end of a sentence.

quotation marks

Quotation marks are used around a direct quotation, direct speech, and some literary titles.

Use single quotation marks for quotations within quotations. Example: “After I failed the exam,” my friend said, “the professor told me, ‘You should have asked me for help.’”

Place periods and commas inside quotation marks. Place colons and semicolons outside quotation marks. If exclamation points and question marks are not part of a direct quotation, also place them outside. Examples:

  • The coach said, “Let’s have a good practice before tonight’s game.”
  • My history professor said to “include dates at the end of the term paper”; however, I don’t know the dates.
  • Who said, “A penny saved is a penny earned”?

Enclose these in quotation marks: song titles, articles, poems, individual titles as part of a series, lectures, book chapters, photographs, and unpublished works. Examples:

  • “Hold On,” sung by Adele
  • “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost
  • Ansel Adams, “Half Dome, Merced River, Winter,” Yosemite Special Edition Photograph


Elements in a series that are punctuated internally should be separated by semicolons. Examples:

The meeting was called by the department head and included White, the executive officer; Smith, the chief undergraduate adviser; and Brown, the graduate program director.