Hyphens: Use hyphens in these situations:

  1. Hyphenate a phrase used as an adjective when it precedes the noun it modifies. Examples: "trial-by-trial analysis," "paper-and-pencil questionnaire."

  2. Hyphenate an adjective-and-noun compound when it precedes and modifies another noun. Examples: "high-anxiety group," "middle-class families," "low-frequency words," "opposite-sex attraction." (Distinguish between the ways you use these words. When you mean "opposite-sex" as an adjective, use a hyphen: "opposite-sex dyads." When you use it as a noun, do not hyphenate: "The same results do not apply to the opposite sex.")

  3. Hyphenate all "self-"compounds, whether they are adjectives or nouns. Examples: "self-report technique," "self-esteem," "self-confidence."

  4. Do not hyphenate a compound using an adverb ending in "ly." Examples: "widely used test," "relatively homogeneous sample," "randomly assigned subjects."

Punctuating titles. Books, films, journal titles, television programs--all these are italicized. (If italics are unavailable or if they are not distinct, underline the titles.) Chapters of books and titles of articles in journals are put in quotation marks.

Commas: Use commas in these situations:

  1. After an introductory phrase (a group of words) that precedes an independent clause (a group of words that includes a subject and a predicate). Example: "Through active participation in these forms of expression, the myths of a religion are maintained." Example: "From a communication perspective, Burke's notion makes sense."

  2. After a dependent, adverbial clause that precedes an independent clause. (These introductory clauses often are signaled by words such as "when," "as," "after," "until," "although," "if," "although," or "because"). Example: "When researchers fail to take into consideration the demographics of the participants in their research, their conclusions must be suspect."

  3. Before "and," "but," "nor," "for," and "yet" when they join independent clauses. Example: "This perspective is important, but it is only part of a much larger picture." Example: "Their rhetoric depicts a world in transition, and its appeal is based on the desire to stabilize this world."

Omission of apostrophe: An apostrophe is used to indicate the omission of one letter or more in a contraction (such as "isn't") and to show possession (such as "the writer's intention"). If the word denoting possession is plural or ends with an s, the apostrophe follows the s. Some add another s, which is acceptable as long as such usage is consistent. For example, "Bess' paper" or "Bess's paper" both are correct. In the case of a pair or series of nouns, only the last needs the apostrophe ("Altman and Taylor's idea").

The notable exception is "its," the possessive of "it." Notice that when this word is used to mean "belonging to it," such as "its foot" or "its quality," an apostrophe is not used. When this word is used to mean "it is," such as "it's a difficult theory to understand" or "it's not an original idea," an apostrophe is used.

Periods, commas, and quotation marks: Periods belong inside quotation marks, as do commas: Juanita Kreps stated, "For today's manager, this change will mean adjustment." The exception to this rule is the semi-colon and the colon; they go outside of the quotation marks.

Dashes: Dashes are made with two hyphens; use no spaces between them and the words on either side of the dash. Example: "We like fruit of all kinds--apples, oranges, and grapes."

Ellipse: If you omit material in a quotation, use three spaced periods. In other words, type a period, hit the space bar once, type the next period, hit the space bar, then resume typing the text: "What we require to be taught . . . is to be our own teachers." If your ellipse covers material that runs to the end of the sentence, use four spaced periods: "Not all of what we desire can be achieved . . . ."