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Punctuation

Bulleted lists

Capitalize the first word of every bullet. Don’t use semicolons after points in a bulleted list. Include a period at the end of the bullet only if that point is a complete sentence. For example:

When you go to the store, please buy:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Naan chips

When you leave the house:

  • Please buy apples, bananas, and naan chips.
  • Fill the car with gas.

Colons

Capitalize the first word after a colon, only if what follows is a complete sentence. For example:

I have several favorite foods: apples, bananas, and naan chips.

I have several favorite foods: Apples were my first favorite snack, but naan chips are a rising star in my life.

Commas

We use the serial comma (sometimes called the Oxford comma). In a list of three or more, include a comma before the conjunction. For example: Please buy apples, bananas, and naan chips.

Dashes

When offsetting a phrase with dashes you should use the longer em dash (—), which is Option + Shift + - on Macs, with a space on either side of the dash. For example:

We emphasize open, digital record keeping, and — whenever possible — we illuminate our processes.

Although we advocate using words rather than symbols, in some contexts you may use an “en dash” to convey a range of numbers. For example, both 10–20 students and 10 to 20 students are acceptable options. En dash is Option + - on Macs.

We assign 2–3 people to each development team.

Quotes

These quotations are correctly punctuated:

“Would you like a banana?” he asked.

“I hate bananas,” she said. “You know I hate bananas.”

He paused before saying “bananas are not something people should hate.”

Spaces

Sentences should always be separated by a single space. Never two spaces.

Ampersands or plus signs

Use and instead of an ampersand or plus sign, unless they’re part of an official title or company name. For example, D.C. Tech Lady Hackathon + Training Day

Slashes

Avoid using the slash / symbol. Replace it with words or commas as appropriate.

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18F Content Guide is a product of GSA’s Technology Transformation Services, and is managed by 18F.

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