Grammar Tips

CDN uses AP style

This list was adapted from the Brandeis University AP Style Guide


  • Spell out the numbers one through nine. Use Arabic numerals for 10 and up. Always use Arabic numerals for ages and percentages, even for numbers less than 10.
  • Spell out numbers that start a sentence. If the result is awkward, re-work the sentence: Twenty-five people attended the party yesterday. Yesterday, 456 students were awarded scholarships.
  • The exception to this rule is a sentence that begins with a calendar year: 2012 was a record-breaking year for heat waves.
  • Use Roman numerals for wars, monarchs and Popes: World War I, King George V, Pope John XXI
  • In the case of proper names, use words or numerals according to the organization’s practice: Century 21, 3M, Twentieth Century Fox, Studio 54


 Academic Degrees

  • Avoid abbreviations: James Smith, who has a doctorate in modern marine biology …
  • Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, etc.
  • There is no apostrophe in Bachelor of Arts or Master of Science.
  • Use abbreviations such as B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. only when the need to identify many people by degree on first reference would make the preferred method cumbersome; use the abbreviations only after a full name and set the abbreviations off with commas: Connie Lang, Ph.D., attended the news conference.


  • Always use Arabic figures, without st, nd, rd or th.
  • When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec.: The press conference will be held on Aug. 10.
  • When a phrase lists only a month and year, do not separate the month and the year with commas: The new product will launch in February 2015.
  •  When a phrase refers to a month, day and year, set off the year with commas: Feb. 22 2010, was the day they met.


  • Use figures except for noon and midnight
  • Use a colon to separate hours from minutes: 5:30 p.m.
  • 5 o’clock is acceptable, but time listings with a.m. or p.m. (with periods) are preferred

United States

  • As a noun, use United States: He is the most respected biologist in the United States.
  • As an adjective, use U.S. (no spaces): A U.S. importer will speak at the news conference tomorrow.


  • Spell out the names of the states when they appear alone: The governor of New York was not re-elected.
  • Abbreviate the names of states when they appear with the name of a city, town, village or military base: Gaithersburg, Md.,
  • Do not abbreviate Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas or Utah
  • Use the following state abbreviations:

Ala.            Neb.

Ariz.            Nev.

Ark.            N.H.

Calif.            N.J.

Colo.            N.M.

Conn.            N.Y.

Del.            N.C.

Fla.            N.D.

Ga.            Okla.

Ill.            Ore.

Ind.            Pa.

Kan.            R.I.

Ky.            S.C.

La.            S.D.

Md.            Tenn.

Mass.            Vt.

Mich.            Va.

Minn.            Wash.

Miss.            W.Va.

Mo.            Wis.

Mont.            Wyo.



  • For plural nouns ending in s, add only an apostrophe: the dancers’ shoes, dogs’ leashes
  • For singular common nouns ending in s, add ‘s: the princess’s crown, the dress’s hem
  • For singular proper names ending in s, use only an apostrophe: Dallas’ skyline
  • For singular proper names ending in s sounds such as x, ce, and z, use ‘s: box’s lid, onyx’s value
  • For plurals of a single letter, add ‘s: He flunked this semester with all F’s.
  • Do not use ‘s for plurals of numbers or multiple letter combinations: the 1980s, GMOs


  • Capitalize the first word after a colon only if it is a proper noun or the start of a complete sentence: He told me this: Global warming is a real problem. But: The study makes three main points: number one, two and three.
  • Colons go outside quotation marks unless they are part of the quoted material.


  • Do not put a comma before the conjunction in a simple series: Apples, oranges, bananas and pineapples.
  • Use a comma to set off a person’s hometown and age: Mary Jones, Boston, said she voted against the measure. Carlos Miller, 43, has lived here since 1999.


  • Use a hyphen for compound adjectives before the noun: well-known artist, full-time mom, 50-year marriage
  • Do not use a hyphen when the compound modifier occurs after the verb: The artist was well known. Her job was full time. He was married for 50 years.


  • The temptation to use parentheses is a clue that a sentence is becoming contorted. Try to rewrite the sentence, putting the incidental information between commas or dashes, or in a separate sentence. If you must use parentheses, follow these punctuation guidelines:
  • Place a period outside a closing parenthesis if the material inside is not a sentence (such as this fragment).
  • If the material is an independent complete sentence, place the period inside the parentheses.


  • Use a single space after the period at the end of a sentence.
  • Do not put a space between initials: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis; J.K. Rowling.

Quotation marks

  • In dialogue, each person’s words are placed in a separate paragraph, with quotation marks at the beginning and end of each person’s speech.
  • Periods and commas always go within quotation marks.
  • Dashes, semicolons, question marks and exclamation points go within the quotation marks when they apply to the quoted material. They go outside when they apply to the whole sentence.
  • Use single marks for quotes within quotes: the witness said, “The defendant told me, ‘I wish he was dead.'”


  • Titles of academic courses:
    • Do not italicize course titles or put quotation marks around them.
  • Titles of books, computer games, movies, operas, plays, poems, albums, songs, radio and television programs, lectures, speeches and works of art:
    • Capitalize the principal words, including prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters
    • Put quotation marks around all such works except the Bible and books that are primarily catalogs of reference material: “The Hobbit,” Fox’s “Family Guy,” Encyclopedia Britannica
    • Translate a foreign title into English, unless the American public knows the work by its foreign name: Rousseau’s “War,” not Rousseau’s “La Guerre.” BUT: Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.”
  • Titles of newspapers and magazines:
    • Do not place these titles in quotation marks.
    • Capitalize the in the name if that is the way the publication prefers to be known.
    • Lowercase the before names if listing several publications, some of which use the as part of the name and some of which do not: Time, Newsweek, the Washington Post and the New York Times
  • Titles of directions/regions:
    • Lowercase north, south, northeast, northern, etc. when they indicate compass direction: My best friend is moving west.
    • Capitalize compass points when they designate U.S. regions: A tradition that developed in the Midwest is spreading northward.
    • With names of countries, lowercase compass points unless they are part of a proper name or are used to designate a politically divided nation: northern Italy, western Greece, South Korea
    • With states and cities, lowercase compass points when they describe a section of a state or city: western Philadelphia, southern Georgia
    • Capitalize compass points when used in denoting widely known sections: Southern California, the Lower East Side of Manhattan
  • Titles of seasons:
    • Lowercase spring, summer, fall and winter, as well as derivatives like wintertime unless part of a formal name: the Winter Olympics