Style guide

A work-in-progress catalogue of English language rules followed by this website (for the most part)

In this guideBullet pointsCapitalsCommasE-mailFull stopQuestion markQuotationsOxford comma

Bullet points

For bullet points that are lists of words or phrases, do not end any item with punctuations. Except for this rule, treat bullet points as you would any list without bullets.

For bullet points that form a sentence by themselves or are extensions of an existing sentence, place a full stop after the last item. For bullet points where each item is a sentence in itself, use semi-colons, or the words or or and as appropriate, ending with a full stop.


Do not start every word of a title or subtitle with a capital. Do this either with exceptionally good reasons or because the original work was named that way. Use capitals for institutions and organisations (World Bank, United Nations), or for geographic forms (River Nile) including when spatial structures are part of the name (Mexico City), or for historical terms (the Pleistocene, the Bronze Age). Also use capitals for titles only in conjunction with the bearer’s name (President Obama) and not by itself (the president).


When commas are used as parentheticals, use two commas or none. Further, not all starting phrases of a sentence need commas—not unless the rest of the phrase makes sense without the first part altogether. So write “In 1937 the gorillas migrated...” rather than “In 1937, the gorillas migrated...”

Commas must be used when the direction of a sentence changes. Commas must also be used when adding something to a sentence that is not otherwise apparent e.g. “The author of Outliers Mr Malcolm Gladwell spoke at the gathering” if you believe Mr Gladwell is not well-known and his person is important to what you are trying to say (“Mr Gladwell spoke...”), and “The author of Outliers, Mr Malcolm Gladwell, spoke at the gathering” if you believe Mr Gladwell is well-known or his person is not central to what you are trying to communicate (“The author of Outliers, whoever they may be, spoke...”).

If a question mark appears where a comma should—such as at the end of a quote after which the rest of the sentence continues—the question mark takes precedence and the comma should be dropped.

Do not put a comma between a subject and a predicate.

See also question mark.


E-mail is spelt with a hyphen. So write e-mail and not email.

Full stop

It is always worth pausing to think where we place our full stops. When it is part of a parenthetical sentence, the full stop goes inside the parenthesis.

Do not use full stops at the end of headings and subheadings or for abbreviations and initialisms, like KABK. This website errs in following the first part of this advice in older articles but efforts have been to rectify this where possible.

See also, quotations.

Question mark

Always place a question mark only at the end of a sentence even when a sentence feels like it carries two questions within it. Use commas to ease reading in such cases.

See also commas.


Use a comma (or words like that, if, because or whether without a comma) before a quote if quoting an entire sentence. If quoting phrases, let it follow the preceeding phrase as if they were a sentence together and do so without a preceeding comma. In the former case, use a capital for the first letter of the quote; in the latter, do not use a capital.

Punctuations that belong to a quote remain within inverted commas. Everything else is placed outside it. For general punctuation in relation to quotations, which can often become a messay affair, follow Oxford rules:

  • Place full stops and question marks within inverted commas when they are part of the quote;
  • Place full stops within inverted commas if the quote ends the entire sentence;
  • Place all punctuations outside inverted commas if they are not part of the quote and do not adhere to the point above;
  • When breaking off quotations place commas within the quote if commas would have been placed there even it had not been a quote; place commas outside the quote if a comma is needed in the sentence but would not have a natural place within the quote itself.

Oxford comma

Also called a serial comma. Use only where appropriate, such as when not using it may confuse the reader about conjunctions in a list.

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