Editorial Style Guide
Consistent style and usage are essential to conveying quality and professionalism in our written communications. Click below for a guide to Colby standards on capitalization, punctuation, and more.
Contact the Office of Communications.
1. Punctuation, Spaces
It is no longer correct to use two spaces after periods, question marks, etc. Use a single space.
2. Introductory Phrases
Introductory phrases such as Last year and In 1966 do not require commas. When in doubt, leave it out. Longer introductory phrases (five words or more) or passages where there may be confusion may benefit from the comma.
Place the period inside the parentheses only when the matter enclosed is an independent sentence forming no part of the preceding sentence.
Right: Most Colby students are from public high schools. (Of course, there are exceptions.)
Right: Most professors have doctorates (although some have terminal master’s degrees such as the M.F.A.).
4. Punctuation with Quotations
Commas and periods always go inside the quotation marks. Exclamation points and question marks go inside the quotation marks when they are a part of the quoted matter. Otherwise, they go outside.
Right: Gomer said, “Golly, Sergeant!” when he heard it.
Right: Sergeant Parker gave the following order: “Peel potatoes!”
Right: Schaeffer’s book asks, “How Shall We Then Live?”
Right: What did King mean when he said, “I have a dream”?
Semicolons and colons should be placed outside quotation marks or parentheses. When a passage ending with one of these punctuation marks is quoted, the colon or semicolon is dropped. In running quotations, each new paragraph should begin with open quotation marks.
Right: President Greene stated that the plan needed “a few minor adjustments”; however, he did not reject it entirely.
5. Punctuation with States, Countries, and Dates
Commas should be used after a date (month, day, and year) and place (city, state, and/or country).
Right: On Jan. 1, 2022, a new year began.
Right: The Waterville, Maine, native came home.
6. Series, Oxford or Serial Comma
Colby style uses the serial or Oxford comma before the last item in a series.
Right: The president, vice president, and dean of admissions were all present.
7. Titles: Italics and Quotes
When writing titles, the whole title should be in italics and the parts in quotation marks. For example, a book of poems would be in italics, but a poem from the book would be in quotation marks; a television show would be in italics, but the episode would use quotation marks, etc. Titles of plays are italicized. Titles of paintings, drawings, statues, etc. are italicized, and so are titles of exhibitions. Titles of collections are neither italicized nor put in quotes.
Works online are analogous to print publications, even if they don’t appear in print. That is, periodicals or complete works are italicized; articles or sections of works are roman and, where appropriate, enclosed in quotation marks. (See Chicago Manual, “Names and Terms” chapter, for details.)
In running text, a “the” preceding a name, even when part of the official title of an institution, company, periodical, group, etc., is lowercased.
“The Raven” from the Poe Collection
Rosanne episode “Back Off Buddy, That’s My Husband”
A story in the New York Times (“the” is lowercase and roman)
“Babylon Revisited” is the first work in Babylon Revisited and Other Stories
Richard Serra’s print Brownie McGhee is part of Richard Serra at Colby College, the Paul J. Schupf Collection.
The exhibition Rediscoveries 2: New Perspectives included works from the Lunder Collection.
8. Hyphens and Dashes
A hyphen (-) is a single short mark used to join words. Hyphens are used to connect compound modifiers; however, they are omitted when the first modifier is an adverb ending in -ly. An en dash (–) is a single long mark (on a Mac, option and minus/underline) used to join numbers.
Right: A well-known author spoke in the smoke-free restaurant.
Right: Reunion Weekend is June 7–9.
Wrong: This mostly-ignored manual is of little use.
An em-dash (—) is a single, even longer mark, not two hyphens (- -). (On a Mac, option-shift and minus/underline.) In print, it is used without leading and following spaces.
Wrong: Reunion Weekend – – an event for alumni- -is from June 7–9.
Right: Reunion Weekend—an event for alumni—is June 7–9 (or “from June 7 to 9”).
When introducing a list, avoid using a colon following a verb.
Wrong: The list includes: a 128-acre arboretum, a 6.2-acre pond, and 8.5 miles of trails.
Right: The list includes the following: a 128-acre arboretum, a 6.2-acre pond, and 8.5 miles of trails.
Ellipses indicate something that has been left out. Three dots (without spaces between) signify an omission; four (with a space between the period and the ellipsis) signify a sentence break and an omission. Treat an ellipsis like a word with regard to spaces and punctuation.