Office of Marketing and Communications

Editorial Style Guide


Ampersand (&)

Use the ampersand when it is part of a formal name.

Example: Arts & Ideas is published every semester.

The Arts & Ideas program is an established formal name that uses the ampersand.

The ampersand should not otherwise be used in place of and in running text.

Example: The College of Arts and Sciences is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

One exception to this rule is in charts, graphs, etc. where space constraints exist. However, consistency must be followed.


Common Nouns
Remember ’s is used when the common noun having possession is either singular or plural, and does not end in s.

Example (Singular): The book’s title was very long.

Example (Plural): The speaker discussed women’s rights.

When a common noun is singular and ends in s, add ’s unless the word that follows it in the sentence begins with an s. Then add only an apostrophe.

Always use smart (curly) apostrophes (’) to designate possession. Straight apostrophes (') are used to designate feet.

She accepted the witness’s answer.
She accepted the witness’ story.

When a common noun is plural and ends in s, add only an apostrophe.

Proper Names
When proper names end in s (whether singular or plural), add only an apostrophe.

Example: Lewis’ Office of Human Resources

Lewis University
Use Lewis University’s, the University’s or Lewis’ when showing possession in a sentence. Never use Lewis’s.

Omitted Letters
To indicate omitted letters, such as in contractions. Contractions are acceptable under some conditions, but for the most part should not be used in formal writing.

Omitted Figures
To indicate omitted figures, such as The class of ’62, The Spirit of ’76 or The ’20s.

Graduation Years Following a Name
An apostrophe may also be used to signify omitted figures of a graduation year when used immediately following a name.

Example: John Masterson ’72 is now in charge of operations for the Monroe Company.

In this example, a comma is not needed after John Masterson’s name to separate the name from his year of graduation. A comma also is not needed after the graduation year, unless a clause were to follow.

Example: John Masterson ’72, head of operations for the Monroe Company, recently visited the Lewis University campus.

Single Letters
An apostrophe may be used to indicate plurals of single letters.

Example: He earned two A’s and three B’s in his classes.

Plurals of Numerals/ Multiple Letters
Apostrophes should not be used for plurals of numerals or multiple-letter combinations.

Example: RNs who choose to complete their degrees graduate with a sense of accomplishment.

In the above example, RNs should not have an apostrophe.

Example: He graduated in the ’90s.

In the above example, an apostrophe is used, but only to indicate omitted figures (1990s). An apostrophe should not be used between 90 and the letter s. Doing so would be incorrect since an apostrophe placed here denotes possession. For more information, see Possessives under Editorial Style (A–Z).


The most frequent use of a colon is at the end of a sentence to introduce lists, tabulations, etc. Remember the first word after a colon is capitalized only if it is a proper noun or the start of a complete sentence.

Example: He promised this: The University will continue to prosper.

The colon can also be effective in giving emphasis.

Example: He had only one goal in sight: his bachelor’s degree.

The colon is used in listings such as time elapsed (1:23:07), time of day (8:31 a.m.) and biblical and legal citations (2 Kings 2:14; Illinois Code 3:245–260). It is also used in running text that features dialogue, such as in theatrical scripts or coverage of a trial.

Use a colon to introduce long quotations within a paragraph. Colons go outside quotation marks unless they are a part of the quotation itself.


Use commas to separate elements in a series, but do not put a comma before the conjunction in a simple series.

Example: The American flag is red, white and blue.

Put a comma before the concluding conjunction in a complex series of phrases.

Example: The University created this style guide as part of its ongoing efforts to promote the University’s identity, to advance its quality of presentation, and to eliminate confusion among its various publics.

With conjunctions, as a general rule, use a comma if the subject of each clause is expressly stated.

Example: We soon will complete the project, and we also will prepare a presentation.

Use commas to separate a series of adjectives that are equal in rank. If the commas would be replaced by the word and without changing the sense of the statement, the adjectives are equal.

Example: The hot, dry summer seemed to last forever.

Like the colon, the comma may also be used to introduce a direct quotation that remains within a paragraph. However, the quotation should be complete and only a sentence in length. Longer quotations require a colon. See Colon.

Example: He said, “Receiving a college degree is a dream come true.”

Use a comma instead of a period at the end of a quote that is followed by attribution.

Example: “I am looking forward to graduation,” said aviation major John Sanders.

Do not use a comma, however, if the quoted statement ends with a question mark or exclamation point.

Example: “When does the ceremony begin?” he asked.

Do not use a comma at the start of an indirect or partial quote.

Example: He said he was “looking forward to graduation.”

When used, commas go inside the quotation marks. One exception to this rule is when they are used as part of attribution that precedes the quote. See prior examples.

Place a comma after digits signifying thousands (except when referring to temperature).

Example: Lewis has more than 4,400 students.

When writing a date, place a comma between the day, if given, and the year. Do not place a comma between the month and year when the day is not given.

March 4, 1980
March 1980

A comma is also used to separate an introductory clause or phrase from a main clause.

Example: After he completed all of his studies for the semester, he took a trip to Florida.

The comma may be omitted after short introductory phrases if no ambiguity would result. But it should be used if its omission would slow the reader’s comprehension.

Example: During the semester he studied diligently.

A comma should be used with ages, hometowns and states when written in conjunction with a person’s name.

Example: Mary White, 48, Tuckahoe, N.Y., was present.

Commas should also be used to set off other descriptive information when placed immediately after a name.

Example: Jaime Hogan, Director of Management, attended the meeting.

In many cases, however, including the word of without a comma is preferred when writing a person’s name with just a hometown, state or other simple identifier.

Mary White of Minneapolis was present.
Mary White of Lewis University was present.

Always use a comma following the names of cities when used with the names of states or nations.

Example: Dublin, Ireland or Tuckahoe, N.Y.

Use parentheses, however, if a state name is inserted within a proper name.

Example: The Carbondale (Ill.) Times Weekly

The Dash

Use a dash before an author’s or composer’s name at the end of a quotation, and to set off a full phrase that contains a series of words that must be separated by commas.

When dashes are used, be sure they are designated by an actual dash symbol (—) and not a hyphen (-) or double hyphen (--).

“ In the moment of our trial and our triumph, let me declare my faith.” — Mohandas Gandhi
He listed the qualities — honesty, courage, compassion, kindness — that he admired in people.

Dashes may be used to denote an abrupt change in thought in a sentence or to create an emphatic pause.

Example: She was planning a trip to Florida — if she could save enough money.

Dashes may also introduce individual parts of a list. In lists, the first word following the dash should be capitalized.

Margaret made the following comments:
— She really enjoyed the performance.
— She was amazed at how interesting it was to watch.
— She hoped to see it again.

Remember to put a space on both sides of a dash in all general uses. Some exceptions to this rule are when a range of years or a range of time is used.

6 a.m.–4 p.m.

Spaces should not be included on either side of the dash in these instances.

Ellipsis ( . . . )

An ellipsis is constructed with three periods and two spaces, as shown above in parentheses. Use an ellipsis to indicate the deletion of one or more words in condensing quotes, texts and documents. Be especially careful to avoid deletions that would change or distort the meaning of a sentence. Remember to leave a space on both sides of an ellipsis.

Example: “I always wanted ... to be a doctor,” he said.

If words that precede an ellipsis constitute a complete sentence, place the appropriate punctuation to end the sentence (a period, question mark, exclamation point) at the end of the last word. Follow it with a space and an ellipsis.

Example: “He said he would be there. ...I can only guess why he was not.”

When material is deleted at the end of one paragraph and at the beginning of the one that follows, place an ellipsis in both locations. When writing a story, however, ellipses should not be used at the beginning or end of direct quotes.

An ellipsis may also be used to indicate a pause or hesitation in speech, or a thought that the writer does not complete. A dash should be substituted for this purpose if the text uses ellipses elsewhere to indicate that words actually spoken or written have been deleted.

Exclamation Point

Use the exclamation point to express surprise, disbelief or other strong emotions. However, avoid overuse.

When using an exclamation point with quotes, place the exclamation point inside the quotation marks when it is part of the quoted material.

Example: “That’s incredible!” she said.

A comma or period should not be used after an exclamation point, even when quotation marks are used. See the previous example.

When an exclamation point is not a part of the quoted material, it should remain outside the quotes.

Example: I loved the movie “Gone with the Wind”!


Hyphens are joiners. Use them to avoid ambiguity or to form a single idea from two or more words.

Example: The University is hosting a meeting of small-business men.

When a compound modifier — two or more words that express a single concept — precedes a noun, use hyphens to link all the words in the compound except the adverb very and all adverbs that end in ly.

After graduation, he began looking for a full-time job.
Some style guide standards are easily remembered rules.

Many combinations that are hyphenated before a noun are not hyphenated when they occur after a noun.

Example: She works full time.

One exception to this is when a noun occurs after a form of to be (is, are, were, etc.). In these cases, the hyphen is usually retained to avoid confusion.

Example: He is well-known.

A hyphen should be used to designate dual heritage, such as Italian-American or Mexican-American. No hyphen, however, for French Canadian or Latin American.

When using a hyphen, avoid duplicated vowels and tripled consonants, such as pre-empt or shell-like.

Lewis University uses hyphens when referring to its pre-professional programs, including pre-medicine, pre-dentistry, pre-law, etc.

Do not place a hyphen between the prefix sub and the word to which it is attached, such as sublet or subtotal. One exception to this rule is when doubled prefixes are joined, such as sub-subparagraph.

In cases where the spelling of a word is acceptable with or without a hyphen, it is best not to use the hyphen.


Use parentheses sparingly, because often they are jarring to the reader. In many cases, the need to use a parentheses may indicate that a sentence is becoming contorted. In these situations, the sentence should be written another way if possible.

If incidental material must be included in a sentence, then commas or two dashes are frequently more effective. There are occasions, however, when parentheses are the only effective way of inserting necessary background or reference information.

Acronyms are included in parentheses after the first full reference of a group or organization that has more than one or two words in its name. The acronym may then be used on second reference and thereafter without parentheses. Periods between the letters in the acronym are generally not used, since most acronyms use only the initials of each word. Overall, avoid using too many acronyms at once, and never change or alternate the acronym that is formally used by a group.

Example: Moraine Valley Community College (MVCC) signed a dual admission agreement with Lewis University. MVCC is located in Palos Hills.

Insertions in a Proper Name
Use parentheses if a state name or similar information is inserted with a proper name.

Example: The Huntsville (Ala.) Times has a strong readership.

If no proper name is used, then commas can be used instead of parentheses.

Example: The Chicago, Ill., group saw the governor.

Place a period outside a closing parenthesis if the material inside is not an independent sentence.

Example: The meeting will be held in the Leckrone Academic Resource Center (near the University Dining Hall).

An independent parenthetical sentence ends with a period before the closing parenthesis.

Example: A maximum of 21 credit hours may be applied for in “life experience” for those currently working in the field. (For more information, contact the department’s program coordinator.)

When a phrase placed in parentheses might normally qualify as a complete sentence but is dependent on the surrounding material, do not capitalize the first word or end the sentence with a period.

Example: When a sentence is placed in parentheses (this is an example) inside of another sentence, the first word is not capitalized and the sentence does not have a period before the closing parenthesis.

If incidental information must be inserted into a quote to help give the statement a clear meaning, then parentheses should be placed around this information to separate it from the actual quoted material.

Example: She said, “I feel so honored to receive (the President’s Award). It was really unexpected.”

Many times, however, these parentheses can be avoided by an explanatory clause outside of the quote.

Example: “I feel so honored,” she said upon receiving the President’s Award. “It was really unexpected.”


Periods should be used at the end of a declarative or mildly imperative sentence.

Example: Shut the door.

Use an exclamation point if greater emphasis is desired.

A period should be used at the end of some rhetorical questions if the statement is more a suggestion than a question.

Example: Why don’t we go.

It should also be used at the end of an indirect question.

Example: I would like to know what the score is.

Periods are also used in abbreviations, including initials such as T.S. Eliot and John F. Kennedy. No space is placed between the periods and the initials.

Periods are used in constructing ellipsis. See Ellipsis in this section. They are also used in enumerations, following the numbers or letters in numbering elements of a summary.

1. Write simply.  
2. Punctuate properly.

When used with quotations marks, periods always go inside the quotes.

Question mark

Use a question mark at the end of a direct question (Example 1) and at the end of a sentence that may have multiple questions (Example 2).

Example 1: Did I hear you correctly?

Example 2: Did you hear him say, “When will the class be held?”

Do not use question marks to indicate the end of indirect questions.

Example: I want to know what was the cause of the fire.

A question mark goes inside quotation marks when it applies directly to the quoted material. When it applies to the entire sentence, then the question mark is placed outside of the quote.

He asked, “When will you return?”
Who wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner”?

The question mark supersedes the comma that would normally be used when supplying attribution for a quotation that is a question.

Example: “How can I help you?” she asked.

Quotation marks

In running text, the titles of essays, musical compositions, radio and television programs, songs, opera titles, lectures, works of art, chapters of books, and titles of papers should be placed in quotation marks.

In direct quotations, quotes are used to surround the exact words of a speaker or writer when being reported. Use single quotes (‘) for quotations printed within other quotations.

Smart (curly) quotation marks (“) are typographically correct. Straight quotes are used to designate inches ("), just as straight apostrophes (') are used to designate feet.

Example: The author said, “She exclaimed with happiness, ‘I passed the test.’”

If a full paragraph of quoted material is followed by a paragraph that continues the quotation, do not put close-quote marks at the end of the first paragraph. Open-quote marks should appear at the start of the second paragraph. Close-quote marks should then be used to end the quoted material.

One exception to the rule above is when the quoted material in the first paragraph of a running quote is not a full sentence. Then, close-quote marks should be used in that paragraph.

“ Professor Jones said he was “very pleased to return to teaching.”
“I am so pleased, in fact, that I am hoping to teach additional courses over the summer,” he said.

In dialogue or conversation, each person’s words, no matter how brief, are placed in separate paragraphs with quotations marks at the beginning and the end of each person’s statement.

Do not use quotation marks to report ordinary words or cumbersome language that can be easily and accurately paraphrased.

Words which may be unfamiliar to readers may be placed in quotes. Quotation marks may also be placed around a word or words used in an ironical sense.

Quotation marks are not required in formats that identify the information as being quoted, such as in question and answer formats using the Q and A symbols or the publication of the full text of a speech. When text is condensed or excerpted, an ellipsis should be used where appropriate.

Remember, the period and the comma always go within the quotation marks. The dash, semicolon, question mark and the exclamation point go within the quotation marks when they apply to the quoted material only. Otherwise, these punctuation marks are placed outside the quotation when they apply to the whole sentence.


Use the semicolon to indicate a greater separation of thought and information than a comma conveys, but less than the separation a period implies.

Semicolons may help to clarify a series of elements when individual segments contain material that also must be set off by commas.

Example: The honorees are: Mary Smith, Associate Professor; John Thomas, Assistant Professor; and Susan Edwards, Adjunct Instructor.

Remember that a semicolon is used before the final and in such a series.

A semicolon is also used to link independent clauses when a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or for) is not present.

Example: The assignment was due this week; she turned it in at 9 a.m. today.

When used along with quotes (as in a list), the semicolon should remain outside the quotation marks.

Example: The nominees for best student paper were Rebecca Charger, “The Positive Effects of Service”; Jane Osgood, “Travel Abroad”; and Michael Erickson, “The Life of the Elderly.”