How to... proofread your work Part: 5

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How to... proofread your work

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Incorrect punctuation can make your work more difficult to understand. Here are some pointers as to how to punctuate correctly.

Full point or full stop

  • At the end of a sentence
  • In etc., i.e., e.g.
  • Do not use in abbreviations, i.e. USA, UK
  • Not necessary to use in common acronyms, e.g. AIDS, HIV, ANOVA, MANOVA

In both UK and US style, place inside closing quotation marks when quoting complete sentences; otherwise place outside. Follow these guidelines for question marks and exclamation marks.


  1. In compound sentences:
    • Before the conjunctions but, or, nor, for, so, yet.
    • "Edward likes blue, but Jack likes red."
  2. After introductory phrases:
    • "Similarly, several employees pointed to the high level of decentralization."
    • "In 1914, war broke out."
  3. In a list:
    • "France is famous for fine wine, fine food, beautiful countryside and great literature."
    • Note, the US style is to have a comma before the last "and".
  4. Restrictive and non-restrictive elements – use commas for the latter but
    not for the former:
    • A restrictive element is an element that is essential to the meaning of the sentence, such as "The painting of the painter's mother is a forgery", where "of the painter's mother" defines the painting.
    • A non-restrictive element is when the element is not integral to the sentence, for example "Riccardo Muti, one of the world's greatest conductors, resigned from La Scala, Milan".


  1. Used as a weak full point, to separate, but not to conclude, two independent clauses, which may be connected by conjunctive adverbs or transitional phrases:
    • I like to take my holidays in Europe; my husband prefers to go to the USA.
    • The managing director announced his resignation; as a result, the other directors also all resigned.
  2. To separate elements in a list which contains commas:
    • "(see for example Bartlett and Ghoshal, 1993; Romme, 1997; Miles and Snow, 1997)."


  1. To introduce a list:
    • Students are required to bring the following into the exam: working pens, compasses, calculators.
  2. To introduce a clause which relates directly to the previous clause:
    • I have an excellent driving record: I have no speeding fines or claims on my insurance.
  3. To introduce a quote or bulleted list on a separate line.

Quotation marks

  1. Use double quotation marks for quotes that appear within the body of the text, and single quotes for a quote within a quote.
  2. Indent longer quotes, without quotes, but use double quotes for a quote within a quote.
  3. Use quotes for the title of an article, but italic for titles of books, TV programmes, journals, magazines.

Parentheses ( )

Full stops should be within parentheses when a whole sentence is included, but outside when only part of the sentence is included.

Dash –

You can use the dash (en rule) – to set off parenthetical material, to give this material greated emphasis.