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

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.

Printed from: on Sunday August 18th, 2019
© Emerald Group Publishing Limited