ASU Brand Guide - Elements of the Brand
Elements of the ASU brand

Punctuation and symbols

This section is included as a reminder of issues that tend to cause confusion. It includes ASU exceptions to AP style.

Accent marks

Do not use diacritical marks, except with names of people who request them or are widely known to use them, or if quoting directly in a language that uses them

  • The applicants submitted their resumes.
  • There’s a cafe near campus.
  • The professor spotted him and asked a question: “Cómo estás?”


  • Do not use the ampersand to represent the word “and” in body copy, headlines, pull quotes, titles of programs or events. 
    • Exceptions: some accepted abbreviations: B&B, R&B, Q&A.
  • Use the ampersand when it is part of the formal name of a company or a composition title:
    • ✅ Do: U.S. News & World Report
    • ✅ Do: Procter & Gamble
    • ✅ Do: Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway
    • ✅ Do: House & Garden 
  • ASU units do not use the ampersand in their names. However, some units use special characters (i.e., J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute).
  • In media channels where characters are limited by ad specs, such as social media and web ads, it is acceptable to use an ampersand, but it should be avoided when possible.

See AbbreviationsCapitalization.


  • An apostrophe can indicate possessionomitted letters and omitted figures.
  • Do not add an apostrophe to a word ending in “s” when it is used primarily in a descriptive sense:
    • ✅ Do: Citizens band radio
    • ✅ Do: A teachers college
    • However, when punctuating names, follow the practice of the organization being named:
      • ✅ Do: The Ladies’ Home Journal
      • ✅ Do: The National Governors Association
  • In general, avoid excessive personalization of inanimate objects and entities; instead, use a different sentence construction.
    • ✅ Do: He is a benefactor of the college.
    • 🚫 Don't: He is the college’s benefactor.
  • In years: See Times, days, months, seasons, years
  • In temperatures: See Numerals
  • Use only for fragments needing clarification. If a sentence fragment or data point requires further explanation, use an asterisk after the fragment to point to a footnote at the bottom of a page, list or table.
    • Do not use an asterisk without adding the footnote.
    • The asterisk follows sentence punctuation, with no intervening space.
    • In the footnote, do not insert a space between the asterisk and the note.
    • Another solution is to use the paragraph preceding the list or immediately following it to clarify the information in detail.
  • The asterisk follows sentence punctuation, with no intervening space.


✅ Do: In addition to the general requirements for admission to Graduate College, applicants must also provide:

  • Online graduate education application
  • Statement of purpose outlining career and educational goals
  • Current curriculum vitae or resume*

*The resume should demonstrate how professional experience will help the student succeed in this program.

🚫 Don't: In addition to the general requirements for admission to Graduate College, applicants must also provide:

  • Online graduate education application
  • Statement of purpose outlining career and educational goals
  • Current curriculum vitae or resume. Resume should demonstrate how professional experience will help the student succeed in this program.

See Lists, Formatting for tables.

At symbol

  • Do not use @ to represent the word "at" in body copy, headlines, pull quotes, captions, titles of programs or events, etc. 
  • Due to its association with email addresses and social media handles, the at symbol should not be used in any other instance.

See ASU locations, campuses, buildings and units for revised standards — without the “@” — for ASU Local.


  • Use a colon when introducing a list or introducing a different, though related, thought.
  • Capitalize the first word after a colon only if it is a proper noun or starts a complete sentence.
    • ✅ Do: She promised the same for everyone: The company would provide unlimited paid time off. 
    • 🚫 Don't: He added three ingredients to the recipe: Flour, butter and cinnamon.


Comma in a series

  • ASU style does not recognize the Oxford comma. Do not use a comma in a series, before the conjunction in a simple series unless necessary to avoid confusion:
    • ✅ Do: The flag is red, white and blue.
    • ✅ Do: He would nominate Tom, Dick or Harry.
    • 🚫 Don't: The store sold oranges, apples, and bananas.
  • However, place a comma before the concluding conjunction in a series if an integral element of the series requires a conjunction. Also use a comma before the concluding conjunction in a complex series of phrases.
    • ✅ Do: She had grapefruit juice, toast, and ham and eggs for breakfast.
    • ✅ Do: The main points to consider are whether the athletes are skillful enough to compete, whether they have the stamina to endure the training, and whether they have the proper mental attitude.

As with all punctuation, clarity is the biggest rule, according to the AP Stylebook. If a comma does not help make clear what is being said, it should not be there. If omitting a comma could lead to confusion or misinterpretation, then use the comma.

Comma with essential clause

  • Do not offset an essential clause with commas. An essential clause is one that cannot be removed without altering the meaning of the sentence.
  • Example: If there is more than one coach at the school, the coach’s name is essential for clarity. It cannot be offset with commas:
    • ✅ Do: The basketball coach John Smith and the team will be at the reception.
    • 🚫 Don't: The basketball coach, John Smith, and the team will be at the reception.

Commas with nonessential clause

  • A nonessential clause must be offset with commas. A nonessential clause is one that may be eliminated without altering the meaning of the sentence.
  • Example: If there is only one head basketball coach, his name is not essential to the sentence, and should be offset with commas.
    • ✅ Do: The head basketball coach, John Smith, and the team will be at the reception.
    • 🚫 Don't: The head basketball coach John Smith and the team will be at the reception.

Comma with semicolon

  • Use semicolons to separate elements of a series when the items in the series are long or when individual segments contain material that requires commas:
    • ✅ Do: The winners of this month’s contest are from Springfield, Illinois; Alamogordo, New Mexico; Memphis, Tennessee; and Wichita, Kansas.


  • It indicates deletion of one or more words.
  • In general, treat this as a three-letter word, with a space before and after the symbol.

For other uses of the ellipsis, refer to The Associated Press Stylebook.

Em dash

  • The em dash (—) has several uses: 
    • It allows, in a manner similar to parentheses, an additional thought to be added within a sentence by sort of breaking away from that sentence — as shown here.
      • ✅ Do: Their kindred spirits — at once philosophical and practical — made them friends. 
    • An em dash creates an emphatic separation or abrupt change, marks a series within a phrase or adds emphasis to the text that follows.
      • ✅ Do: Sam loved the hotel’s ambiance, but Emily — she thought it was pretentious.
      • ✅ Do: The cupcakes — tasty and nutritious — sold out in minutes.
      • ✅ Do: They remembered why they always came to this island — the stunning ocean views.
  • Use em dashes sparingly.
  • Always use a space before and after an em dash.

To create an em dash on a Mac: Shift + Option + Minus key; on a PC: Ctrl + Alt + Minus key or Alt+0151

For more examples of when to use an em dash, see Times, days, months, seasons, years.

  • The en dash (–) connects things that are related to each other by distance, to indicate a range, such as between dates, times or numbers, except when the words “to,” “or” or “and” are preferable. 
  • En dashes specify any kind of range, which is why they properly appear in indexes when a range of pages is cited (e.g., 147–48).
    • ✅ Do: May–September issue of a magazine
    • 🚫 Don't: May-September issue, because June, July and August are also ostensibly included in this range. 
  • Do not use a space before or after an en dash:
    • ✅ Do: 2012–13
    • ✅ Do: 1–2 p.m.
    • ✅ Do: 10 a.m.–noon
    • ✅ Do: April 16–May 12
    • ✅ Do: April 16–17
    • ✅ Do: Monday, April 16–Tuesday, May 8 

To create an en dash on a Mac: Option + Minus key; on a PC: Ctrl + Minus key or Alt+0150

For more examples of when to an en dash, see Times, days, months, seasons, years.


The ASU brand uses AP Stylebook guidelines for hyphens, but with some exceptions. 

  • The hyphen (-) serves as a joiner, connecting two or more words to form a single idea or compound modifier (e.g., tie-in, toll-free call, two-thirds). Hyphens should be used to avoid ambiguity or confusion.
    • ✅ Do: The president will speak to small-business owners.
    • 🚫 Don't: The president will speak to small business owners. (The absence of a hyphen might lead to the question of the business owners’ physical size). 
  • Use hyphens sparingly.
  • Do not use a space before or after a hyphen.
  • As a general rule, hyphenate compound modifiers:
    • ✅ Do: 15-credit-hour program 
    • ✅ Do: 40- to 60-credit-hour program
  • Do not use a hyphen between adverbs ending in -ly and adjectives they modify: 
    • ✅ Do: An easily remembered rule.
    • ✅ Do: A badly damaged island.
    • ✅ Do: A fully informed voter.
    • ✅ Do: Nationally ranked.
    • 🚫 Don't: Nationally-ranked.
  • Suffixes that generally require hyphens include -free, -based, -elect.
  • Hyphens also are used to separate figures in:
    • Fractions (two-thirds)
    • Odds (odds were 5-4)
    • Ratios (ratio was 2-to-1)
    • Scores (Giants beat the Tigers, 5-4)

Prefixes — when to hyphenate

Prefixes that generally require hyphens include self-, all-, ex-, half-.

  • Hyphenate prefixes when used as a modifier before numerals (which is really the only way you would use it), e.g., pre-2019.
  • Use a hyphen to join doubled prefixes: sub-subparagraph.
  • Use a hyphen if the word that follows is capitalized, e.g., pre-Columbianpre-Socratic.

Do not hyphenateExamples include:

  • ✅ Do: antigravity
  • ✅ Do: antimatter

Most words with the co- prefix are spelled without hyphens (coeducational, coaxial). Retain the hyphen when forming nouns, adjectives and verbs that indicate occupation or status:


  • ✅ Do: co-author
  • ✅ Do: co-chairperson
  • ✅ Do: co-founder
  • ✅ Do: co-owner
  • ✅ Do: co-pilot
  • ✅ Do: co-owner

Most words with this prefix are now written without a hyphen. Consult Webster’s New World Collegiate Dictionary, Fifth Edition.

  • ✅ Do: nonacademic, nondegree, nonprofit, nonstudio, nonthesis
  • ✅ Do: non-English-speaking, non-American

Do not hyphenateExamples include:

  • ✅ Do: outnumbered
  • ✅ Do: outperform
  • ✅ Do: outshine

Most words with this prefix are spelled without hyphens: 


  • ✅ Do: postbaccalaureate
  • ✅ Do: postdoctoral
  • ✅ Do: postgame
  • ✅ Do: postgraduate
  • ✅ Do: postproduction




  • ✅ Do: post-master’s certificate program, 🚫 Don't: postmaster’s certificate 

Do not hyphenate, including double-e combinations with preExamples include:


  • ✅ Do: preempt
  • ✅ Do: preestablish
  • ✅ Do: preelection
  • ✅ Do: preeminent
  • ✅ Do: preexisting

Do not hyphenate double-e combinations with re-. Only hyphenate such words if they are not listed in Webster’s New World College Dictionary.


  • ✅ Do: reemerge
  • ✅ Do: reemphasize
  • ✅ Do: reenact


Consult Merriam-Webster, unless the text references a specific ASU department’s website where traditional hyphenation is still used. If so, follow the ASU department’s style.

See Times, days, months, seasons, years


Do not use parentheses with words to indicate readers’ choices: 

  • ✅ Do: To join the club, you need to complete one or more forms.
  • 🚫 Don't: To join the club, you need to complete the form(s).
  • Use only one space after a period at the end of a sentence. A double space between sentences creates a readability issue for many readers.
  • If importing copy from a document with double spaces, search and replace two spaces with one.

See Numerals for use in decimals

Plus symbol

  • Do not use + in text:
    • ✅ Do: They invited 100-plus people to their wedding.
    • ✅ Do: She is my plus-one.
    • ✅ Do: He got an A-plus on the essay.
    • 🚫 Don't: He got an A+ on the essay.
    • Exceptions: + is acceptable in tables and also when it is pronounced as part of a company, brand or event name: 
      • ✅ Do: Disney+
      • ✅ Do: Apple TV+
      • ✅ Do: CompTia Network+
      • ✅ Do: J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute (the + symbol is pronounced “and”)
  • Do not use + instead of the word and.
    • ✅ Do: Sun Devils love Sparky and football, 🚫 Don't: Sun Devils love Sparky + football.

Quotation marks

  • Use double quotation marks for direct quotes.
  • Use single quotation marks for quotes within quotes.
  • If quotation marks are needed in a headline or subhead, use single marks. 
  • Periods and commas are always placed within quotation marks.
  • The dash, semicolon, question mark and exclamation point: 
    • Are placed within quotation marks only when they apply to the quoted material. 
    • When they apply to the whole sentence, they appear outside the quotation marks.
  • Do not use quotation marks around words or letters to call attention to them; however, do place a letter grade between quotation marks.
    • ✅ Do: All courses must be completed with a minimum grade of “C” (2.00 on a scale of 4.00).
  • Use the schoolthe college, etc., on second reference. Not: “the school,” “the college,” etc.

See Word list.


  • Use the semicolon to indicate a greater separation of thought and information than a comma conveys, but less than the separation that a period implies. 
    • ✅ Do: Some notebooks aren’t just smaller; they’re cheaper.
    • 🚫 Don't: Some notebooks aren’t just smaller, they’re cheaper.
  • Use it to clarify segments of a lengthy series or when segments contain material that must be set off by commas. See also Comma with semicolon section above.
    • ✅ Do: This week’s winners are Joe from Reno, Nevada; Diane from Phoenix, Arizona; and Matt from Boise, Idaho.
  • The semicolon is used before the final word "and" in a series.


  • Do not use a slash with words to indicate readers’ choices: Not and/orcollege/schoolhe/she. Instead, rewrite the statement with more precise phrasing.
    • ✅ Do: Students will want to take the SAT test or ACT test or both.
    • 🚫 Don't: Students will want to take the SAT and/or ACT tests.


See Formatting.


See Formatting.