Here in the United States, we use US customary units of measurement, such as pounds, feet, and inches, for most of our daily activities. However, we are also accustomed to seeing—and sometimes using—the metric system adopted by most other countries. So, should we use metric or US customary units of measurement in our writing? Before answering that question, let’s take a … [Read more...] about Should You Use Metric or US Customary Units of Measurement in Your Writing?
From true crime to comedy, podcasts are all the rage right now. And unsurprisingly, the information they provide is sneaking into our writing. But, just like written sources, podcasts need to be properly cited in reference lists, notes, and bibliographies. This post explains how to cite a podcast according to three of our primary style guides: 1. The Chicago Manual of Style … [Read more...] about How to Cite a Podcast in Reference Lists, Notes, and Bibliographies
Table titles help readers understand the connection between tables and the rest of the document. They can also make tables easier to understand when viewed by themselves. Due to these important functions, all our primary style guides offer detailed guidelines for how to write table titles. So today, we’re going to compare the differing guidelines provided by three of those … [Read more...] about How to Write Table Titles
Figures are visuals such as graphs, charts, photos, drawings, and maps. Figures are normally identified by the capitalized word Figure and a number followed by a caption. A caption is a short block of text that gives information about the figure. The following seven tips explain how to write figure captions in your book, article, or research paper. Although closely related, … [Read more...] about How to Write Figure Captions
Do you know what percentage of style guides agree on when to use the percent sign in a sentence? Zero! To understand when to use the percent sign instead of the word percent, we need to look at the recommendations provided by all four of our primary style guides: The Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago style) The Associated Press Stylebook (AP style) Publication Manual of … [Read more...] about When to Use the Percent Sign in a Sentence (The Ultimate Guide)
Most titles and headings are formatted with headline-style capitalization, which means that the first and last words and all the main words in between are capitalized (as demonstrated in the title of this blog post). But how should you capitalize hyphenated words in titles and headings using headline-style capitalization? The general guideline is to capitalize all the main … [Read more...] about How to Capitalize Hyphenated Words in Titles and Headings
Headline-style capitalization, also called title case, means that the main words are capitalized and the “less important” words are lowercased in titles and headings. Headline-style capitalization is the format you see in most books and magazines. This blog features headline-style capitalization for all titles and most headings. Here are several examples: Should You Use … [Read more...] about What Is Headline-Style Capitalization?
Tables and figures can add depth and clarity to your writing. But your readers may be confused or distracted if visual content suddenly appears in your document without an explanation. Avoid surprising your readers by following these five guidelines for how to reference tables and figures in text. Before we begin, let’s define tables and figures. What Are Tables and … [Read more...] about How to Reference Tables and Figures in Text
This post shares guidelines for how to write university and college names as full names and as abbreviations in sentences. We’ll also look at when to capitalize the word the in university and college names and when to lowercase words such as university and college. Note that these guidelines are for general writing. If you are writing on behalf of a university or college, … [Read more...] about How to Write University and College Names in Sentences
Do you follow American-English writing standards? If so, today’s post is for you because it explains two instances when you should use single quotation marks followed by two instances when you may want to use them. Please note that single quotation marks are used more frequently in British English and, therefore, have more applications than the four instances shown … [Read more...] about When to Use Single Quotation Marks
Suspended hyphens sound like troublemakers, don’t they? Before we accuse them of cutting class or being chronically late for work, let’s look at their less-than nefarious definition. We’ll follow up with five guidelines for how to use them in your writing (without getting into mischief). What Are Suspended Hyphens? Suspended hyphens, also called suspensive hyphens, replace … [Read more...] about How to Use Suspended Hyphens
Do you have a minute? The following three guidelines explain when to hyphenate numbers with units of time such as hours, days, months, years, and centuries. Before we begin, here are a couple of brief words on multi-word descriptions: multi-word descriptions, such as three-hour, that come before nouns are called compound adjectives, compound modifiers, and phrasal … [Read more...] about When to Hyphenate Numbers with Units of Time
The writing world is riddled with “rules” based on misunderstood guidelines. One such rule is that we should never start a sentence with a number. While this blanket ban is understandable—depending on the content, starting a sentence with a number can be confusing or disruptive for readers—doing so is generally grammatically acceptable if you follow the three guidelines … [Read more...] about Three Tips for Starting a Sentence with a Number
Recently, we looked at how to write run-in lists, which are lists that appear inside sentences. In this tutorial, we’ll explore guidelines for how to write vertical lists. Vertical lists are set apart from the surrounding text and are usually prefaced with bullets or sequential numbers or letters. Vertical lists can be ordered or unordered and can be introduced by complete … [Read more...] about How to Write Vertical Lists (Ordered and Unordered)
Run-in lists are incorporated into sentences, as opposed to vertical lists that stand apart from the surrounding sentences. Let’s look at four ways to write run-in lists: (1) with commas, (2) with semicolons, (3) with parenthetical letters, and (4) with parenthetical numbers. How to Write Run-In Lists with Commas Commas can separate simple run-in list items.1 Three famous … [Read more...] about How to Write Run-In Lists
The following guidelines explain when to use italics or quotation marks with foreign words to set them apart from the surrounding English text. These guidelines are for general words in business documents, nonfiction, journalism, and academic writing but aren’t for proper nouns, such as people’s names or place names, which typically don’t require special formatting. But … [Read more...] about When to Use Italics or Quotation Marks with Foreign Words
You can use direct quotations or paraphrasing to include someone else’s writing or speech in your own writing. Direct quotations can be formatted as run-in or block quotations. Today’s post explains direct quotations and paraphrasing in more detail…and you can quote me on that! Direct Quotations Direct quotations present the original writer’s or speaker’s words verbatim. … [Read more...] about Direct Quotations and Paraphrasing Explained
My last post tackled the question of which style guide is best for you. Style guides work hand in hand with dictionaries, so the logical next question is, which dictionary is best for you? Just like style guides, certain dictionaries enjoy wider usage within specific writing categories, so we’ll look at three popular options and conclude with a brief discussion on pocket … [Read more...] about Which Dictionary Is Best for You?
Traditional authors, journalists, and those in academia usually follow their organization’s or publisher’s chosen style guide. But if you’re an independent author, blogger, or business owner, you can decide which style guide is best for your writing. Today’s post provides an overview of the “big four” style guides in American English: The Associated Press Stylebook (AP … [Read more...] about Which Style Guide Is Best for You?
Like the majority of Generation Xers, I was born in the decade of disco, leisure suits, and questionable mustaches. Does that mean I was born in the 1970s, the ’70s, or the seventies? Today’s post answers that question by analyzing how to write decades as complete numerals and words as well as abbreviated numerals. Should We Write Decades as Numerals or Words? As a general … [Read more...] about How to Write Decades as Words and Numerals
Are centuries spelled out or written as numerals? Are centuries hyphenated when used as adjectives? Writers and editors have been asking these questions for at least a hundred years. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself!) So, this post is going to explore present-day recommendations for how to write centuries as words and numerals. Are Centuries Spelled Out or Written as … [Read more...] about How to Write Centuries as Words and Numerals
Today’s post answers seven technology-related spelling questions: 1. Is it e-mail or email? 2. Is Internet capitalized? 3. Is it Web site, web site, or website? 4. Is it Web page, web page, or webpage? 5. Is Web capitalized when abbreviating the World Wide Web? 6. Is it tweet or Tweet? 7. Is it e-book or ebook? We’ll find the answers by examining four popular style … [Read more...] about Is It E-Mail or Email? Seven Technology Spelling Questions Answered
I previously published a post called "Five Helpful Writing and Editing Websites and Blogs." A five-item list is a measly attempt for such a large topic, so today’s post expands that original list to ten writing websites and blogs. These resources cover a wide variety of subjects, so I’m confident that you’ll find something here that you can apply to your business or nonfiction … [Read more...] about Ten Helpful Writing Websites and Blogs
Today’s post shares guidelines for putting ellipsis points in brackets when they are added to quotations that already include ellipses for dialogue disruptions or text omissions. Bracketed ellipses are a rare occurrence; so, review the other four parts of this series if you need broader information about ellipses: How to Use Ellipses, Part 1: Ellipses within and between Quoted … [Read more...] about How to Use Ellipses, Part 4: Ellipses in Brackets
The ellipsis point series just keeps rollin' along! Today’s post demonstrates how to use ellipses at the beginning and end of quoted sentences. Don't miss the rest of the series: How to Use Ellipses, Part 1: Ellipses within and between Quoted Sentences How to Use Ellipses, Part 2: Ellipses between Quoted Paragraphs How to Use Ellipses, Part 4: Ellipses in Brackets How to … [Read more...] about How to Use Ellipses, Part 3: Ellipses at the Beginning and End of Quoted Sentences
Today’s post explains how to use ellipses between quoted paragraphs. “How to Use Ellipses, Part 1” reviews the purpose of ellipsis points and demonstrated how to use them within and between quoted sentences. Part 3 covers ellipses at the beginning and at the end of a quoted sentence. Part 4 outlines ellipsis usage in brackets. And, Part 5 closes the series by discussing … [Read more...] about How to Use Ellipses, Part 2: Ellipses between Quoted Paragraphs
Ellipses, which are also called ellipsis points and ellipsis dots, represent omissions in quotations and interruptions in dialogue. That seems simple enough, doesn’t it? But, that’s where the simplicity ends because several of our primary style guides disagree on how ellipses should be formatted. Let’s unravel these conflicting recommendations point by point. Today’s post … [Read more...] about How to Use Ellipses, Part 1: Ellipses within and between Quoted Sentences
Contractions are unavoidable. They appear in everything from songs and articles to product packaging. (Even the tiger on my box of breakfast flakes is telling me that “They’re great!”) But are contractions okay in business writing? Maybe. Maybe not. That’s frustrating, I know! Here are three questions to ponder as you decide if you should use contractions in your own … [Read more...] about Are Contractions Okay in Business Writing?
Those of us in the writing world talk a lot (and I do mean A LOT) about style guides. But, what is a style guide? What is its purpose? And what is an in-house style guide? Let's answer those questions. What Is a Style Guide? Writing style guides (also called style manuals) are books that recommend specific ways to present written elements such as citations, numbers and … [Read more...] about What Is a Style Guide?
My last post, “Block Quotations, Part 1: How to Introduce Block Quotations,” discussed the purpose of block quotations, how long they should be, and how to introduce them in your content. Today’s follow-up explains how to format block quotations by answering the following questions: How much should block quotations be indented? How do you write quotations within block … [Read more...] about Block Quotations, Part 2: How to Format Block Quotations
Block quotations, also called block quotes, are long quotations that are indented from the surrounding text. In the first part of this three-part series, I’ll explain how to introduce block quotations in your content. But first, let's take a look at the purpose of block quotations and how long they should be. The Purpose of Block Quotations Although block quotations were … [Read more...] about Block Quotations, Part 1: How to Introduce Block Quotations
My previous post, “How to Use Colons,” explains that colons can introduce lists and quotations, conclude salutations, and link titles with subtitles. Colons can also connect tightly coupled sentences, such as those with a cause-and-effect or problem–solution relationship. Today’s post tackles the question of whether you should capitalize the first word of a sentence after a … [Read more...] about Should You Capitalize the First Word of a Sentence after a Colon?
The abbreviations i.e. and e.g. can streamline examples and specific information in your sentences. However, they aren’t interchangeable, and their placement within parentheses depends on the type of content you’re writing. So, let's take a quick look at how to use i.e. and e.g. But first, let's explore the difference between them. What Is the Difference between i.e. and … [Read more...] about How to Use i.e. and e.g.
En dashes, which are shorter than em dashes but longer than hyphens, have two primary uses: (1) create number ranges and intervals and (2) establish equality between compound adjectives. Use En Dashes in Number Ranges and Intervals En dashes can be used in number ranges and time intervals as replacements for the words to and through.1 Apartments 1–15 will be fumigated on … [Read more...] about How to Use En Dashes
In a recent post, I explained that footnotes provide supplementary information such as commentary, quotations, and suggestions for further research. Footnotes can also document the sources cited in your text; however, that job frequently falls to bibliographies and reference pages rather than footnotes. While bibliographies and reference pages are very similar, they do serve … [Read more...] about The Difference between Bibliographies and Reference Pages
If the word footnote ignites memories of coffee-fueled all-night writing sessions in cramped dorm rooms, never fear, we're not going to talk about college term papers today. Instead, we're going to explore the following three questions from the perspectives of formal (nonacademic) documents and business writing: What are footnotes? Where should footnotes appear in formal … [Read more...] about What Are Footnotes and How to Use Them
In a past post, we explored the guidelines for using the gendered pronouns he or she with animals rather than the neutral pronoun it. Today, we’re going to look at relative pronouns for animals, specifically who, that, and which. In general, the relative pronoun who applies to people, while that and which apply to objects. So, should you write “The cat who sits on the porch … [Read more...] about Relative Pronouns for Animals: Are Animals “Who” or “That”?
Copyeditor or copy editor? That is the million-dollar question! (Okay, maybe the thousand-dollar question.) I have been a proud member of the writing and editing community for over a decade. That’s long enough to have witnessed epic battles over the serial comma and near fisticuffs over hyphenation. (Believe me, no one wants to witness actual grammar-induced fisticuffs. That … [Read more...] about Am I a Copyeditor or a Copy Editor?
The individual cities, counties, and states within the United States have definite borders. We also have relatively firm definitions of our geographic regions, such as the Midwest and the Northeast. Unfortunately, we don't have such fixed boundaries for how to abbreviate United States. In fact, the sheer number of conflicting guidelines can make you feel like you've driven … [Read more...] about How to Abbreviate United States
I am owned by two cats named Mr. Heckle and Mr. Jeckle. I have several nicknames for each of them, including Big Guy, Little Guy, Tuffy, and Flying J., just to name a few. One thing I never call them is it. And I'm not alone: most pet lovers use gendered pronouns for animals (e.g., "Mr. Heckle wants his dinner" instead of “Mr. Heckle wants its dinner”). But are we just … [Read more...] about When to Use Gendered Pronouns for Animals
In the world of nonfiction writing, there are four primary style guides that explain everything from proper abbreviation usage to number formatting. However, we're not limited to those guides; in fact, there are many alternative style guides that may meet your needs as standalone resources or as complements to your chosen primary guide. Primary Style Guides First, let’s look … [Read more...] about Alternative Style Guides
We face many difficult questions every day: Why do cats go crazy right before bedtime? Do aliens exist? Who will triumph on Game of Thrones? (No spoilers, please!) And of course, should we use digits or spell out numbers online? Although I’ve yet to see an alien—and I only pretend to understand my cats—I was confident in my grasp of numbers until I read Hoa Loranger’s blog … [Read more...] about Should We Spell Out Numbers Online?
Em dashes, commonly just called dashes, are the same width as a capital letter M in whatever font you are using.1 Em dashes have four primary functions: Emphasize important or essential information Enclose additional information Connect lists with sentences Create pauses or disruptions in dialogue Visit the following tutorials for information on how to insert, … [Read more...] about How to Use Em Dashes
Regular visitors to my blog may have noticed that I love colons, semicolons, and dashes. I sneak them in wherever and whenever possible. And no, I'm not ready to attend Punctuators Anonymous meetings. Instead, I am going to celebrate my adoration with a brief how-to series. We'll kick things off with an explanation of how to use colons in six ways: (1) introduce run-in lists, … [Read more...] about How to Use Colons
A trip through almost any home decor store proves that the ampersand (&) is one of the most beloved symbols in the English language. After all, not too many people decorate their living rooms with wooden semicolons. Although ampersands make excellent art, they are also still useful in writing. This post shares six guidelines for how to use ampersands in business, academic, … [Read more...] about How to Use Ampersands
My last post showed how to create effective bullet points using parallel construction. But, when should you actually use bullet points in business writing? Bullet points frequently appear in resumes, brochures, and on websites. These are all good locations; however, bullets tend to be underutilized in longer documents, such as case studies, white papers, and proposals. I … [Read more...] about When to Use Bullet Points in Business Writing