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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

  • The applicants submitted their resumes.
  • There’s a cafe near campus.


Use the ampersand when it is part of the formal name of an official company or a composition title: Procter & Gamble, Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway, House & Garden. ASU units do not use the ampersand in their names.

Do not use the ampersand to represent the word "and" in body copy, headlines, pullquotes, titles of programs or events, except for some accepted abbreviations: B&B, R&B.

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 Abbreviations, Capitalization.


An apostrophe can indicate possession, omitted letters and omitted figures.

Do not add an apostrophe to a word ending in s when it is used primarily in a descriptive sense:

  • Citizens band radio.
  • A teachers college.

However, follow the user’s practice when punctuating names.

  • The Ladies’ Home Journal.
  • The National Governors Association.

In general, avoid excessive personalization of inanimate objects and entities; instead, use a different sentence construction.

  • He is a benefactor of the college.
  • Not: He is the college’s benefactor.

Note: For numbers omitted at the beginning of a figure, such as years of graduation (Jane Doe ’89), an extra step may be needed to achieve an apostrophe. Microsoft Word and similar programs will interpret this punctuation as a single opening quotation mark, not an apostrophe. To override this, type a second single quotation mark after the first, then delete the first. This is not optional, as the default is incorrect: the ’80s; Not: the ‘80s.


Use this only to refer the reader to a footnote placed at the bottom of a page 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.

At symbol

Do not use @ to represent the word "at" in body copy, headlines, pull quotes, captions, titles of programs or events, etc. The only acceptable uses for this symbol (originally an accounting and retail abbreviation) is in email addresses and microblogging, such as Twitter, and in the names of the following ASU college partnerships:

ASU@Lake Havasu







ASU@Northeastern Arizona


Due to its association with Twitter usernames, the symbol should not be used in any other instance.

Bulleted lists

See Lists.


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.

Comma in a series

ASU style does not recognize the “Oxford comma” (or Harvard comma). Do not use a comma before the conjunction in a simple series unless necessary to avoid confusion:

  • The flag is red, white and blue.
  • He would nominate Tom, Dick or Harry.

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.

  • 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.

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.

In the example below, if there is more than one coach at the school, the coach’s name is essential for clarity. It cannot be offset with commas:

  • The basketball coach John Doe and the team will be at the reception.
  • Not: The basketball coach, John Doe, and the team ...

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.

In the example below, there is only one head basketball coach. His name is not essential to the sentence, and should be offset with commas.

The head basketball coach, John Doe, 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:

  • The winners of this month’s contest are from Springfield, Illinois; Alamagordo, 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 at

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! Or here: “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. The use or misuse of the em dash for this purpose is a matter of taste, and subject to the effect on the writer’s or reader’s “ear.” 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 an em dash, see Days, months, years, seasons, time.

En dash

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. In other words: May–September issue of a magazine; it’s not a May-September issue, because June, July and August are also ostensibly included in this range. And, in fact, 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 not use a space before or after an en dash.

  • 2012–13
  • 1–2 p.m.
  • 10 a.m.–noon
  • April 16–May 12
  • April 16–17
  • 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 Days, months, years, seasons, time.


The ASU brand uses AP Stylebook guidelines for hyphens, but with some exceptions. As AP notes, use hyphens sparingly.

  • 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 (e.g., “The president will speak to small-business owners,” rather than “The president will speak to small business owners,” which might lead to the question of the business owners’ physical size). As a general rule, hyphenate compound modifiers, with these exceptions: 15 credit hour program; 40 to 60 credit hour program. Do not use a hyphen between adverbs ending in -ly and adjectives they modify: an easily remembered rule, a badly damaged island, a fully informed voter.

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

  • Use a hyphen if the prefix ends in a vowel and the word that follows begins with the same vowel. Exceptions: cooperate, coordinate, and double-e combinations with the prefixes pre- and re- such as preestablish, preeminent, preexisting, preempt, reemerge, reemphasize, reemploy, reenact, etc.
  • Use a hyphen if the word that follows is capitalized.
  • Use a hyphen to join doubled prefixes: sub-subparagraph.

Suffixes that generally require hyphens include -free, -based, -elect.

Hyphens also are used to separate figures in odds (odds were 5-4), ratios (ratio was 2-to-1), scores (Giants beat the Tigers, 5-4) and some fractions (two-thirds). Consult Webster’s New World Collegiate Dictionary, Fifth Edition, unless the text references a specific ASU department’s website where traditional hyphenation is still used. If so, follow the ASU department’s style.

Do not use a space before or after a hyphen.

Retain the hyphen when forming nouns, adjectives and verbs that indicate occupation or status:

  • co-author
  • co-chairperson
  • co-founder
  • co-owner
  • co-pilot
  • co-owner

Adverbs ending in -ly should not be hyphenated: nationally ranked; not nationally-ranked.

For more examples of when to a hyphen, see Days, months, years, seasons, time.

Quotation marks

Use double quotation marks for direct quotes and single quotation marks for quotes within quotes.

If quotation marks are needed in a headline, 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.

  • All courses must be completed with a minimum grade of “C” (2.00 on a scale of 4.00).

Use the school, the 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. Use it to clarify segments of a lengthy series or when segments contain material that must be set off by commas. The semicolon is used before the final word and in a series.

  • This week’s winners are Joe from Reno, Nevada; Diane from Phoenix, Arizona; and Matt from Boise, Idaho.
  • Some notebooks aren’t just smaller; they’re cheaper.
  • NOT: Some notebooks aren’t just smaller, they’re cheaper.


A forward slash is typically seen in and/or and his/her statements. Avoid using this construction. Rewrite the statement for clarity and power using more creative writing.


Avoid using superscript letters, such as with numerals, because this treatment may not always display correctly.

Use the same size type as the numeral: 21st century, 10th floor. Exception: Trademark symbols are always superscript in text (e.g., Sun Devil® Athletics, Go Devils™).

Note: Superscript ordinals are the default in Microsoft Word. You may disable this option by following this procedure.


Do not use & in text to represent the word "and," in text or in official ASU unit names. See Ampersand.

@ See At symbol.

Do not use a slash and or parentheses with words to indicate readers’ choices: Not and/or, college/school, he/she, test(s).

Instead, rewrite the statement with more precise phrasing.

  • Before: Students will want to take the SAT and/or ACT test(s).
  • After: Students will want to take the SAT test or ACT test or both.

See ASU branding in content, Colleges, Language.