Ampersands &

Avoid ampersands unless they are used in an official name.

At UC, there are only a few departments that use an ampersand in their official names:

  • Careers, Internships & Employment
  • Research & Innovation 
  • Centre for Risk, Resilience & Renewal

Apostrophes '

You can use common contractions (eg I'm, you're, isn't etc) in friendly, less formal content. Don't use them if you are signalling a warning or writing a formal document, like a policy.

Forming possessives

For most singular nouns, add an apostrophe and an 's' to the end of the word, eg:

  • The book's titles
  • An analyst's notes
  • Joe's coffee cup

For singular nouns ending in 's', add an apostrophe and another 's' to the end of the word, eg:

  • The boss's temper
  • Charles's decision

For plural nouns that already end in 's', just add an apostrophe, eg:

  • The students' workroom
  • Two weeks' time
  • The Jones' cat

For plural nouns that don't already end in 's', add an apostrophe and an 's' to the end of the word, eg:

  • The children's toys
  • The men's cricket team
  • The mice's cheese


Round brackets ( )

Use round brackets to insert additional information, introduce an acronym/abbreviation, or denote an affiliation, eg:

  • 'You have a grade point average of 2.8 or higher (on a scale of 4.0).'
  • Graduate Diploma in Early Childhood Teaching (GradDipECTch)
  • Associate Professor Paul Millar (English and Digital Humanities)

Avoid using round brackets for information central to the meaning.

Square brackets [ ]

Square brackets are usually used to make a quoted text more understandable, eg 'It [electricity] is really just organised lightning.'

Colons :

Colons are most often used to introduce: 

  • A table, illustration or list
  • A long quote or statement 
  • The second part of a headline or title 

Use a single space after a colon.

Commas ,

Use commas where appropriate. Too many in one sentence can be confusing.

Use non-serial commas (a, b and c) for informal content. Use serial/Oxford commas (a, b, and c) for formal content such as policies.

Dashes - –

You can use dashes instead of the word 'to', eg:

  • Pages 5-10
  • Francesco Petarca (1304-1374)

You can also use dashes to punctuate a sentence, eg: You can apply for funding at the office - ask to speak to the manager.

Exclamation marks !

Use exclamation marks very sparingly.

If an exclamation mark ends a quote, don't use a comma or full stop after the exclamation mark.

Hyphens -

Use hyphens to connect words, eg:

  • Part-time
  • Rock-forming
  • Sugar-free

You should also use hyphens when using the prefixes such as co-, ex- and non-.

If you are in doubt, don't use a hyphen unless it's confusing without it. You can also check The New Zealand Oxford Dictionary.

Quotation and speech marks ' '

Use quotation marks for:

  • Identifying direct quotes
  • Defining words
  • Referring to words and letters

Single quotes are preferred online. Double quotes can be hard to read.

Avoid using quotation marks of any kind to denote emphasis, sarcasm, or irony.

Semicolon ;

Use a semicolon to separate out a series that includes commas.

Use to separate two main clauses that are closely related to each other but could stand on their own as sentences, eg I have a big test tomorrow; I can't go out tonight.

Slash /

Slashes should not have spaces on either side. They are used to indicate:

  • 'or' - sir/madam
  • Fractions - 1/2 
  • Or 'per' - 100 km/h


Use only one space after a full stop, not two.