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Gordon College style is to simplify as much as possible. We minimize hyphenation and commas and use a pared-down style for bulleted lists. These contribute to a direct, easy-to-read style.

Consult the Chicago Manual of Style about issues not addressed here. 


The ampersand symbol ( & ) is an informal way to express and.

Don't use it in College communications except as part of a logo. In regular text, and should be used.

Barnes & Noble      Ernst & Young      Inviting juniors and seniors!


In print communications, use apostrophes that curve to the left. If your document displays a straight apostrophe, use a computer shortcut to create a single "smart quote" that curves.

curved apostrophe      straight apostrophe '

On the College website, straight apostrophes are acceptable, but curled versions can be found in the special characters palette ( Special Characters icon ).

Use an apostrophe to

  • replace a missing letter in a contraction
  • replace the century numbers in a year
  • identify a current Gordon student or alumnus by class year
  • create possessive forms of nouns. The College has no formal style for the possessive form of nouns that end in s; use your own judgment on a case by case basis.

Don't use apostrophes in the plural forms of nouns. This applies to numbers and acronyms, too.

rock ’n’ roll      Class of '86      Ken Umenhofer '53B      the 1920s      ATMs      M&Ms   

Robinson Jeffers’s poem "Hurt Hawks"      Robinson Jeffers’ poem "Hurt Hawks"



Create a numbered list when it is important to specify the order of steps in a process, or some other numerical sequence.
Otherwise, use bullets.

Use auto-format buttons on the formatting toolbar in Microsoft Word to format bulleted or numbered lists. Indentation is automatic.

  • bulleted list: select solid black bullet, as shown here
  1. numbered list: select numeral followed by a period, as shown here

College style is the same for both:

  • Place a colon or period at the end of the introductory text above the list.
  • Capitalize the first word after each bullet or number.
  • If all the items in a list are words or phrases, omit end punctuation.
  • If one or more of the items in a list is a complete sentence, end every entry with a period.


Serial comma

College style is to omit serial commas. (In a series of three or more words or phrases, when a conjunction such as and or or joins the last two elements, don't use a comma before the conjunction unless it is essential for clarity.)

It may take professional coaching to design an activity plan that builds muscular strength, balance, flexibility and aerobic fitness.

Commas after introductory phrases

When a sentence starts with a prepositional phrase of five or more words, place a comma after that phrase.
Don't use a comma after introductory phrases of four or fewer words.
SPECIAL CASE: Sometimes a comma is used after fewer than five words, for clarity or to insert an appropriate pause.

In December 2014 during finals week, the team assembled for its final match.

On a December afternoon the team assembled for its final match.

On a cool, cool afternoon, the team assembled for its final match.

Commas between paired adjectives 

When two or more adjectives precede a noun, use the and test. If you can insert and between the words, use a comma; otherwise, don't.
No comma is necessary between the last adjective and the noun.

The tall and wide structure => The tall, wide structure

A former and secret agent => A former secret agent

Commas in personal and business names

Do not use commas between

  • personal names and Jr., Sr., III and the like
  • personal names and abbreviations that follow (such as academic degrees or certifications)
  • corporate names and Co., Inc., Ltd. and the like

Martin Luther King Jr.      Priscilla Nelson Ed.D.      Miguel Martinez M.D.      Work Inc.

Place commas inside quotation marks

Use the American style: at the end of a quotation, place the comma before the ending quotation mark.

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free," declared St. Paul (Gal 5:1).


Dashes come in three sizes.

A hyphen is the shortest. Its only function is to link compound words. 
Type it on the keyboard (lowercase character on key above the letter P).

work-study      in-laws

 An en dash belongs within ranges of time, numbers, pages, years, or other items.

Sept. 2–5      4:15–5:45 p.m.      2015–2016  

Use an em dash

  • to interrupt text to indicate a distinct shift in thought
  • in a sentence where a comma could work, but you want to be more emphatic
  • in lists and announcements (e.g. calendar listings) when you want to make clear a break from one type of info to another.

If you return to your original thought after an interjection, use a pair of em dashes around the interjection.

Chapel, November 16, 10:25 a.m.—Tom Haugen speaking on Galatians 5:16–25


With this move—bringing family books and items back to their origins—I was, in some sense, going backward.

How to create en dashes and em dashes ➔


Type ellipsis points manually, with spaces around and between them, so they will be evenly spaced.

Use three ellipsis points

  • when you omit words within a direct quotation
  • in informal writing, to indicate a pause, or transition of thought

"What I learned as a student . . . was to take information and opinions and draw my own conclusions," Gaston said.

In scholarly writing, use four ellipsis points when the material before the ellipsis is from one sentence, but the material that follows is from another. First type a period (or question mark or exclamation mark) immediately after the word before the ellipsis; then type three spaced ellipsis points.

College communications rarely require the formal four-point ellipsis. . . . Use of it is more common in formal academic writing that must cite sources extremely precisely.


Use these sparingly in College communications. Never use them in email subject lines.


Consult the "Gordon Dictionary" to learn which frequently-used words to hyphenate in College communications.

For words not on that list, use these rules of thumb.


  • when adding a prefix would result in the same letter twice in a row
  • to link a prefix to a capitalized word
  • with the prefixes self-, ex-, and all-
  • to make it clear you are using two linked words as an adjective, when without a hyphen those words together would convey a different meaning
  • spelled-out fractions and ordinal numbers

part-time      pre-Enlightenment      self-conscious     all-knowing
College-sponsored events      three-eighths      thirty-fourth

As a rule, don't hyphenate words that begin with other prefixes, including non, semi, over, under, post, anti, bi, co, micro and counter.
Be alert for exceptions. If omitting a hyphen creates a word that exists with another meaning, use the hyphen.

nonemergency      semifinal      overburdened      underutilized      postdated
antibacterial      biennial      microprocessor      counterculture      co-op housing

In capitalized headings, capitalize the first letter of both parts of a hyphenated word.

When similar compound words appear together in a series, type out the entire last word, but just the prefix and hyphen for those that precede it. 

18th- and 19th-century chamber music     17-, 18- and 19-year-olds


Use straight single and double quotation marks for feet and inches.      8'4"


Use curvy “smart quotes” for quotation marks and apostrophes.  “ ”    ‘ ’
How to create “smart quotes” >>

Use the American style for quotation marks:

  • double marks around a quotation of any length (one word to multiple sentences)
  • single marks around internal quotations


Type one space

  • between sentences
  • after a colon or semi-colon
  • between initials in a name      A. J. Gordon

A single space between sentences is now the industry standard. However, some of us find it hard to break the habit of typing two.
The find/replace function makes it easy to eliminate extra spaces from your document.


Do not follow URLs with periods or other end punctuation.

Position URLs on a single line when possible. If it is essential to split a URL between two lines, do so after a slash that occurs in the URL; don't add a dash or any other punctuation that is not part of the URL itself.

Do not write out "http://" as part of the URL.

Students who wish to take the train to Boston can find the schedule at www.mbta.com/schedules_and_maps/rail/lines/?route=NBRYROCK

On the web, hyperlink words or phrases instead of writing out the full URL. See Writing and formatting for the web for more information.

Students who wish to take the train may view the online Boston train schedule.

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