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Punctuation

In writing, punctuation marks are used to imitate speech and play an important role in communicating meaning in language. Misplaced exclamation marks, for instance, can dramatically change the tone or intent in a message.

Ampersands (&)

Use ampersands in navigation items when space is tight, e.g., "AI & Alerts" in our main nav. Use them in sentences or headings only when they're part of a company or brand name.

Apostrophes

  • Don't use apostrophes to make acronyms plural.
  • Don't use apostrophes to abbreviate years; always write years in 4 digit form.
  • Use apostrophes when making contractions.
DoDon't
SREsSRE's
2017, the 1990s\'17, the '90s
can'tcant, cannot

Colons

  • Colons signal that what comes next is related directly to the previous word, phrase, or sentence.
  • Never use a colon after a sentence fragment.
  • Colons can be used to denote directory levels in file paths.

Examples

  • Animal has 3 different styles for drumming: loud, louder, and deafening.
  • PATH="/usr/local/bin:/usr/bin:/bin:/usr/sbin:/sbin"
  • Users:bowie:Library:Preferences:skittles.plist

Semicolons

These usually support long, complicated sentences. Consider using an em dash, simplifying your sentence, or simply starting a new sentence.

Commas

When listing 3 or more things in a sentence, include a comma between the last item and the word “and.” This is also known as the Oxford comma and, although a much debated topic among some writers, it does more practical good than not.

Consider the following responses to the question “What 3 things do you love most right now?”

  1. I love my siblings, Bob Ross, and Fun Dip.
  2. I love my siblings, Bob Ross and Fun Dip.

The first sentence says that the speaker loves three separate things, whereas the second says the speaker's siblings are named Bob Ross and Fun Dip.

Dashes and hyphens

  • For ranges and number spans, use an en dash (-) without a space on either side.
  • For date spans, use spaces around the en dash.
DoDon't
2-302 - 30
Jul 12, 2019 - Jul 19, 2019Jul 12, 2019-Jul 19, 2019

Ellipses

For space constraints in places where non-critical information can be abbreviated (table cells are a good example), show as much of the original text as possible, and append the trimmed version with an ellipsis. Make sure the customer has an easy, obvious way to get the full text. Frequently we display the full text in a tooltip on hover.

Exclamation points

Exclamation points can add character to your writing, but use them sparingly and consider the customer’s anxiety level as you add them to your text. We want to cheer our customers on, not scream at them.

  • Consider using exclamations for success screens or messages.
  • Avoid exclamations in situations where users might be troubleshooting.
  • Never use exclamations in error messages.

When in doubt, don't use an exclamation point.

DoDon't
Congratulations on creating your first alert!Oops! There was a problem.

Periods

  • Use periods at the end of complete sentences.
  • Don't use periods in headers or subheaders.
  • Don't use periods at the end of each line in a list unless the text makes a full sentence.
  • When writing lists (bulleted, numbered, etc.) either make all items in a list fragments or make them complete sentences. Don't mix and match.

Question marks

  • Use question marks for complete question sentences, not for statements.
  • Don't use question marks as placeholders for an absence of data or explanation.

Quotation marks

  • When a statement sentence ends with quoted text, place the period inside the closing quotation mark.
  • For quotations inside quotations, use double quotes for the outter text and single quotes for inner quote.

Examples

  • Albert Einstein once said, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't know it well enough."
  • Lew Cirne said, "Hello, Relics! Just a reminder that Albert Einstein once said, 'If you can't explain it simply, you don't know it well enough.' I know I can count on you."
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