ampersand (&)

Don't use them, even in headlines. 


  • certain company names – Smith & Jones Consulting
  • when artistic considerations dictate – on a logo, for example 
  • academic references – (Grant & Smith, 1998)

brackets ( ) [ ]

Follow ODE's advice on brackets, copied here below:

There are two main types of brackets.

Round brackets

Round brackets (also called parentheses) are mainly used to separate off information that isn’t essential to the meaning of the rest of the sentence. If you removed the bracketed material the sentence would still make perfectly good sense. For example: 

Mount Everest (8848 metres) is the highest mountain in the world.

capital letters

Use minimal capitalization. A heading starts with a capital, but other words should not be capped up, unless they are proper nouns. If in doubt, choose lower case.

Exceptions include: our Sun, Earth (the planet), and our Solar System, but not universe, moon, earthquake, earth (the soil).

Use a capital letter when you are writing the names of people, languages, places, and words relating to them:

Africa, African
Buddha, Buddhism
Shakespeare, Shakespearean


Use the ellipsis character (… ) in quoted material if you need to show that words have been omitted from the middle of the original quote. In HTML5, it is written: …

The ellipsis should always be followed by a space.

exclamation marks

Avoid using them. If the statement is surprising or exciting, it will be clear to the reader without the need for an exclamation mark.

In particular, avoid multiple exclamation marks e.g.:

…this year the Wildcats are here and full of determination, as never before!!!!



Too many hyphens make text look cluttered, so avoid them where you can. See ndash;

After an adverb?

Do not use hyphens to link an adverb to an adjective:

genetically modified food, doubly special relativity

The only common exceptions to this are when “well” and “ill” are used as part of a compound adjective preceding the noun, when a hyphen is needed to avoid ambiguity:

well-behaved patients; ill-considered attack

Compound adjectives

Use a hyphen in phrases such as

quotation marks

Use double quotes in text, captions, etc. Single quotes for headlines, and quotes within quotes. See quotes.

Do not use quotation marks to soften headlines. 

Higgs boson "found" does not mean anything. The quote marks render the headline ambiguous and confuse the reader. Has it been found or not?

CERN physicists spot tantalizing hints of Higgs boson is more elegant and gives more information, without the need for quotes. 


Readers are entitled to believe that anything appearing within direct quotes are the actual words used by the speaker.

  • Remove ums and aahs and correct for grammar 
  • If you are unsure of the exact wording use reported speech 
  • Open quotes with a colon, and close them after the punctuation mark
  • Use says, not said (though said is permissibile for famous historical examples)

"I really enjoyed the part about the accelerators," says Joe Bloggs. "It got me interested in physics again."

Subscribe to punctuation

You are here