Elements of Style Section 3

Emma Love, Claire Strickler, and Amelia Lennard

Slang/Colloquialsms

  • a colloquialism is a word or phrase that is not formal or literary that is normally used in conversation
  • do not put in quotations
Good: She had a blast at the party.

Bad: She had a "blast" at the party.

Exclamations

  • Use only after true exclamations or commands
  • Do not use with statements
Good: Stop!

Good: What a fast race!

Bad: It was a fast race!

Headings

  • Use for publication purposes
  • Leave space at the top of the page and put your heading a fourth of the way down the page
  • On the rest of the pages leave a reasonable amount of space (a couple lines)
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Margins

  • Keep left and right margins the same width
  • Exception: if you need to leave room for annotations, make the left-hand margin bigger
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Hyphen

  • Use when two words make a compound adjective
  • Do not use when two words can be written as one
Do hyphenate: She is a well-known actor. Sally had a good-looking prom date.

DO NOT hyphenate: We saw a beam coming from the lighthouse. The sound was worse than nails on a chalkboard.

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Numerals

  • Do not spell out dates or other serial numbers (a serial number is a number showing the position of an item in a series and is used for identification)
  • Do write them in figures or Roman numerals
  • Exception*: spell numbers out when they occur in dialogue.
Correct: September 26, 2014

Correct: This is section 3 of The Elements of Style.

Correct: King Henry VII is notorious for his six wives.

Incorrect: I thought the chemistry quiz for unit three was on October third, not September twenty-ninth.

Correct*: "The football game was rescheduled to October ninth"

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Parentheses

  • Punctuate as if it was absent from the sentence
  • Within the parentheses, punctuate as if it was its own sentence
  • But, do not use an end mark unless it is an exclamation point or question mark
  • If the whole sentence is within parentheses, put the end mark inside
Correct: The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the United States was around 16.8 trillion dollars last year.

Correct: She told us to write an essay (three pages!) on Thomas Jefferson.

Correct: (Parentheses can also be used to show dates.)

Incorrect: In her essay (The one assigned for homework.), she forgot Thomas Jefferson was president.

Incorrect: (How did she still get such a high grade)?

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Quotations

  • If cited as documentary evidence introduce with a colon and use quotation marks
Correct: The report on King Philip's War said: "In 1675, a Christian Native American who had been acting as an informer to the English was murdered at Philip's instigation."

Incorrect: The essay said "King Philip's tribal name was Metacom."


  • When the quotation is in apposition or is a direct object of the verb introduce with a comma and use quotation marks
Correct: Walt Disney said, "All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them."


Incorrect*: Walt Disney said All of our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them!


  • Always put the comma inside the quotations
Correct: "Hope is the Thing with Feathers," "Because I Could Not Stop For Death," and "I'm Nobody! Who are you?" are some of Emily Dickinson's most famous works.


Incorrect: "Hope is the Thing with Feathers", "Because I Could Not Stop For Death", and "I'm Nobody! Who are you?" are some of Emily Dickinson's most famous works.


  • When the quotation is the length of a line or longer, begin on a new line and indent. DO NOT use quotation marks unless they appear in the original.
See picture for example
  • Quotations introduced with that are not put in quotation marks
Correct: Steve Jobs said that things don't have to change the world to be important.


Incorrect: Steve Jobs said that "Things don't have to change the world to be important."


  • Proverbial expressions and familiar phrases of literary origin also are not put in quotation marks
Correct: A penny saved is a penny earned.


Incorrect: "A penny saved is a penny earned."

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References

  • Abbreviate titles that occur frequently but give the full form at the end
  • Omit words act, scene, line, book, volume, or page unless referring to only one of them
  • Give references in parentheses or footnotes
  • Incorrect: In the first scene of the second act, Brutus stabbed Caesar.
  • Correct: Brutus stabbed Caesar (II. i).

Syllabication

  • Divide a word at the end of the line based on the syllables
  • Consult a dictionary if unsure of the syllables in a word
  • Incorrect: manusc-ript, tr-avels
  • Correct: manu-script, trav-els
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Titles

  • Italicize and capitalize titles of literary works
  • Omit A or The from before titles if it is following a possessive
  • Incorrect: In Nicholas Sparks's a walk to remember...
  • Correct: In Nicholas Sparks's Walk to Remember...
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If you want to review this presentation at home or try the practice questions, go to https://www.smore.com/82d5t

Practice Questions

Directions: Correct each sentence and write what was wrong. More than one thing can be wrong with each sentence. They may also be correct.


  1. I'll never remember all of these style rules!
  2. She told me that riding the biggest roller coaster in the park was "awesome".
  3. The United States is an English Speaking country.
  4. "The most important rule is number three."
  5. Today is August 26, 2014.
  6. (February 29th only happens once every four years).
  7. In Finding Nemo, Dory often said "Just keep swimming."
  8. In the first scene of the second act she dies.
  9. The Elements of Style is a helpful guide.



Directions: Answer the short answer.


  1. What should a student consult to find the proper division of a word for syllabication?
  2. What punctuation do proverbial expressions require?
  3. What end mark would not be included in parentheses in the middle of a sentence?
  4. How far down the page should the title be?
  5. Name the rule about margins.

Answers to Practice Questions

Stops scrolling if you don't want to see the answers!

1. I'll never remember all of these style rules. The statement is not a true exclamation or command.

2. She told me that riding the biggest roller coaster in the park was awesome. Do not use quotations around slang.

3. The United States is an English-speaking country. The hyphen is used because it is one idea used to describe the country.

4. Correct

5. Correct

6. (February 29th only happens once every four years.) The period is put inside the parentheses.

7. In Finding Nemo, Dory often said, "Just keep swimming." Put a comma before the quote (direct object of a verb)

8. In II.i she dies. Do not write out all references. See references subtitle for more information.

9. The Elements of Style is a helpful guide. Put titles in italics.


  1. a dictionary
  2. none outside of a normal sentence
  3. a period
  4. about 1/4
  5. The right and left should be even unless the left is bigger to leave room for annotations.