A colon can be used to introduce a subclause which follows logically from the text before it, where it is not a new concept and depends logically on the clause before it.
- Our sixth form centre is open to students from two of our partner academies: The Holgate Academy and Queen Elizabeth’s Academy.
Also see ‘Bullet points’ below.
Semicolons are not frequently used within our house style, as the preferred method to connect related parts of a sentence is with an en dash or a comma as appropriate (see below).
Generally, you can use a semicolon to link two related parts of a sentence, where each of which could stand alone as a grammatically complete sentence and/or neither of which depends fully on the other.
- The students finished first in the netball tournament; our team from Retford Oaks Academy beat peers from five other academies to claim the county championship title.
You can use semicolons in place of commas in a complicated list or sentence if it will improve clarity, particularly if list items already include commas. However, consider the use of a bulleted list as an alternative to a long sentence.
- We strive for excellence at the academy, especially as we improve our practices in teaching and learning; with pastoral support; and our enrichment opportunities for students.
Use a pair of commas to surround descriptive information which can be removed (non-defining clause) without losing the meaning of the sentence – note that only ‘which’ or ‘who’ can be used in this type of clause, not ‘that’.
- Mr Ritchie, who joined the academy in 1967, unveiled a plaque in his honour as he retired.
Commas should not be used to surround information which cannot be removed without losing the meaning of the sentence (defining clause) – note that ‘which’ or ‘who’ can be replaced by ‘that’ in this type of clause.
Use commas to surround a non-defining word or phrase (which adds information but could be omitted without changing the sense of the sentence), and follow the non-defining word/phrase with a single comma if it is at the start of the sentence.
- Mr Ritchie, the academy caretaker, celebrated his retirement by unveiling a plaque
Do not use a comma where defining information is used at the start of a sentence.
- Celebrating his retirement was Mr Ritchie. (Correct)
- Celebrating his retirement, was Mr Ritchie. (Incorrect)
En dash and hyphens
En dashes can be used in a variety of ways to support understanding and to help make content flow in the correct manner.
- They should be used in a pair in place of round brackets or commas, surrounded by spaces.
(It was – as far as I could tell – the only example of its kind.)
- Use singly and surrounded by spaces to link two parts of a sentence, in place of a colon or semicolon.
(The bus was late today – we nearly missed the start of class.)
- Use to link concepts or ranges of numbers, with no spaces either side.
(Students from Hucknall Sixth Form Centre are aged 16-18)
Plain English – using hyphens
Ampersands should only be used if they are part of official titles or names. Otherwise, spell out ‘and’.
Generally, there are two reasons for the use of an apostrophe – to indicate possession or to indicate that letters have been omitted (contractions).
Use ’s after singular nouns, plural nouns which do not end in s and indefinite pronouns.
- Dave’s report
- anybody’s guess
- The children’s playground is next to the year 5 classroom.
Use just ’ after plural nouns ending in s.
- Strong tea is sometimes called builders’ tea.
If a name already ends in s or z and would be difficult to pronounce if ’s were added to the end, consider rearranging the sentence to avoid the difficulty.
- ‘Lucas’s methods were very popular with his peers’ could be changed to ‘The methods used by Lucas were popular with his peers.’
In compound nouns and where multiple nouns are linked to make one concept, place the apostrophe at the end of the final part (and match it to that noun).
- the teacher’s pen
- my mother-in-law’s dog
- his step-brothers’ cars
- Eva and Freddie’s story
Use apostrophes with noun phrases denoting periods of time (use an apostrophe if you can replace the apostrophe with ‘of’).
- took a week’s holiday (holiday of a week)
- You must give three months’ notice (notice of three months)
But do not use an apostrophe in adjectival phrases.
- She was eight months pregnant when she went on maternity leave.
Use an apostrophe in the position the omitted letters would have occupied, not where the space was between the original words.
- I don’t like the colour blue.
- He wouldn’t do that.
Do not use an apostrophe before contractions accepted as words in their own right.
- He is on the phone.
- He had swine flu.
Do not use an apostrophe to make a plural, even with a word/phrase that is not usually written in the plural or which appears clunky. To clarify something which will look odd if an s is added, consider italicising it or placing it in single quotation marks.
- FAQs (not FAQ’s)
- 2000s (not 2000’s)
- CDs (not CD’s)
- its (in the possessive, e.g. the house has lost its windows)
- it’s (contraction, e.g. it’s on Retford Road)
Plain English – using apostrophes
We do not use full stops after abbreviations, for example Mr (not Mr.), St (for saint not St.) with the exception of ‘e.g.’ and ‘i.e’.
Generally, full stops are not used on signs. However, you should use a full stop at the end of a sentence on signage if punctuation has been included in the sentence and/or it is a long sentence.
Plain English – punctuating sentences
Do not punctuate the end of bullet points which are a list of items.
GCSE options block two:
If the bullet points form a complete sentence, add a full stop to the end of each bullet point. A full stop should also be applied to the end of the proceeding sentence.
The teacher stated three things that students must remember when using academy computer equipment.
- Do not eat or drink near the IT equipment.
- Users must only use their personal login.
- All equipment must be treated with care and respect.
A list of very short points can either be formatted with a full stop on the preceding sentence or with a colon and punctuation. Note initial capitals are only used in the first example.
Select one subject for block two of your GCSE options.
When choosing your block two GCSE options, you must select one of the following subjects:
- geography, or
If text inside the bullet point is a complete sentence in its own right, add a semicolon to the end of each point, ‘or’ or ‘and’ (depending on the sense of your sentence) to the end of the penultimate point, and a full stop to the end of the last one.
The following will be considered appropriate reasons for missing the final student council meeting of the year:
- you are absent as a result of illness;
- you are unable to attend because of problems with public transport;
- you have been selected to represent the academy in a sporting fixture; or
- you have obtained a ticket to see Les Misérables at the theatre.
Plain English – punctuating bulleted lists
Spacing between sentences
We only include one space between the end of a sentence and the start of the next.