This section is not intended to teach you how to punctuate English sentences. Instead, it describes some central differences in American and British usage as well as some aspects of English punctuation that Danish speakers tend to find confusing.
Please refer to Swan or the Oxford Dictionaries guide to punctuation if you need more general guidance on English punctuation.
Danes shed blood, sweat and tears learning how to apply the grammatical comma. Please try to forget what you have learnt when writing English. In English, commas generally reflect pauses in speech.
Avoid putting a comma before a clause beginning with ‘that’.
I told you that you should stop putting commas before ‘that’.
I told you, that you should stop putting commas before ‘that’.
Don’t put commas around defining (restrictive) relative clauses.
A restrictive relative clause provides essential information about the noun it refers to. If you leave it out, the sentence won’t make much sense. A non-restrictive relative clause can be removed from the sentence without changing its essential meaning. (If you need an explanation of what a relative clause is, see this Oxford Dictionaries article on relative clauses.)
The girl held out the hand that was hurt.
The girl held out the hand, that was hurt.
It reminded him of the girl (whom) he used to know.
It reminded him of the girl, (whom) he used to know.
Don’t place commas before the final ‘and’ or ‘or’ in lists unless the meaning is ambiguous.
He’s interested in chemistry, molecular biology and musicology.
He’s interested in chemistry, molecular biology, and musicology.
Don’t place commas after ‘e.g.’ and ‘i.e.’ (See Abbreviations below for more points on Latin abbreviations.)
The exam requires participation in instruction, i.e. participation in at least 75 per cent of the course.
The field of greatest importance is exegesis, i.e. interpreting the biblical scriptures.
Handling personal issues (e.g. work-life balance)
Use a comma after introductory elements, adverbial clauses, prepositional phrases and participial phrases.
As a rule, you should not allow a brief introductory element to merge with something following it in a way that might confuse your reader.
Walking home through the University Park, Professor Jensen realised how to solve the problem he had long been grappling with.
Finally, I want to emphasise the importance of proofreading.
At the beginning of the autumn semester 2014, all students should have appropriate housing.
Until the spring course lists will not be published.
Inside the lecture theatre was brightly lit.
Hyphenation is being used less in compound words and is optional in many cases. Whether you choose to hyphenate a word or not, please be consistent (in other words, don’t write ‘trouble-shooting’ in one paragraph and ‘troubleshooting’ in the next). Your spellchecker may have its own ideas about hyphenation.
Coordinate, microeconomic, sociopolitical, subdivide, troubleshooting
Co-ordinate, micro-economic, socio-political, sub-divide, trouble-shooting
Many (if not most) Danish hyphenated forms do not take a hyphen in English. If you are a native speaker of Danish writing in English, be sure and check your English text for hyphenated forms and look them up to make sure that they actually exist.
Only hyphenate dates when you’re using them as adjectives.
(‘seventeenth-century’ is an adjective describing ‘England’)
in the seventeenth century
in the seventeenth-century
Avoid dividing words at the end of the line wherever possible. You can choose to have Word avoid hyphens or hyphenate documents automatically. Choosing ‘no hyphenation’ is often the best option.
If you do choose to hyphenate your document, make sure you’ve selected the appropriate language settings in whatever program you’re using. Find out about hyphenation settings in Microsoft Office.
When using hyphens to divide words at the end of the line:
There are two types of dashes worth worrying about:
There are broad national differences in dash conventions, and many publications have developed their own house rules. Something about dashes brings out the picky Per Nittengryn in many writers. At AU, our passions lie elsewhere, so we tend to simply follow the suggestions provided by AutoCorrect in the British English version of Word. When writing for non-AU publications, other conventions may apply. Whatever convention you are following, be consistent.
If you are using the right version of Word (UK English), you will use spaced en dashes in the following contexts:
Use spaced en dashes for parenthetical comments. US English uses unspaced em dashes in these situations.
If your language settings are correct, Word automatically converts hyphens to en dashes when you type space – hyphen – space – ‘xxxxx’. If for some reason you need to insert an en dash somewhere else in your text, the keyboard shortcut is Ctrl + - (minus sign).
Spaced en dashes – not em dashes or hyphens – should be used for parenthetical comments.
Unspaced em dashes––not en dashes or hyphens––should be used for parenthetical comments. (US English)
Use unspaced en dashes to replace colons, semi-colons or brackets in running text. If your language settings are correct, Word automatically converts hyphens to en dashes when you type space – hyphen – space – ‘xxxxx’.
Aarhus University, as a strong, modern university, is in a strong position to live up to these requirements – in a short space of time, it has achieved a ranking among the top 100 out of the 20,000 universities in the world.
Note: Dashes are especially common in informal writing in English. In more formal contexts, use parentheses, colons and semi-colons. See Swan on the uses of colons (section 454) and semi-colons (section 459).
Single and double inverted commas are not interchangeable. There are rules governing their use, and it’s important to apply them consistently.
In AU texts, we use double inverted commas to mark the beginning and end of direct speech. We use single inverted commas
Use double inverted commas at the beginning and end of a quotation. Use single inverted commas for quoted words within the main quotation.
The language consultant wrote: “When in doubt, you should always consult Michael Swan’s Practical English Usage, which emphasises that ‘even very advanced students can make mistakes’.”
Many buckets of ink have been spilled on the question of whether commas and full stops should be placed before or after quotation marks. Follow The Guardian's rules and you won’t go far wrong.
If you are quoting a full sentence, place commas and full stops inside the quotes.
The language consultant explained: “Place commas and full stops inside the quotes when quoting full sentences,” and I replied: “I’ll certainly do my best to remember that.”
The language consultant explained: “Place commas and full stops inside the quotes when quoting full sentences”, and I replied: “I’ll certainly do my best to remember that”.
If you are quoting a fragment of a sentence, place commas and full stops outside the quotes.
The language consultant went on to explain that updating the Style Guide “was a difficult but deeply satisfying task”.
The language consultant went on to explain that updating the Style Guide “was a difficult but deeply satisfying task.”
In articles and press releases, use colons to introduce quotes, not commas.
The AU Style Guide says: “Please don’t use commas, use colons.”
The AU Style Guide says, “Please don’t use commas, use colons.”
Long quotations (block quotations) should be single-spaced and indented.
Do not combine double inverted commas with this formatting, or apply a different font, size or colour from the main body of your text.
Use single inverted commas to set off words from the rest of the text in an ironic or distancing way (so-called ‘scare quotes’), or if the phrase or sentence you’re introducing is an example or instance of something you’re trying to explain.
The so-called ‘flexicurity’ model is long on flexibility but short on security.
Most ‘ordinary’ people are anything but ordinary.
Buzzwords like ‘self-realisation’ and 'mindfulness’ are characteristic of New Public Management.
The Danish word økonomisk can either be translated as ‘economic’ or ‘efficient’.
In Danish, we use apostrophes when adding plural endings to an abbreviation or number.
flere PhD’er, postdoc’er, 1960’erne, PC’er
In English, no apostrophe should be used before the plural ending of abbreviations, names, numbers, letters and words, even before words that are not normally written in the plural. Use apostrophe -s to indicate possession (genitive).
There are several PhDs in the programme.
There are several PhD’s in the programme.
He got straight As
He got straight A’s
In the 1960s…
In the 1960’s…
AU’s goal is to
AUs goal is to
If you need to form a plural of a word that already ends in -s or -z, add an apostrophe or rearrange the sentence.
Hobbes’ Leviathan is a central work of philosophy.
Hobbes’s Leviathan is a central work of philosophy.
Leviathan, a central work of philosophy by Thomas Hobbes….
Don’t use full stops after contractions (abbreviations in which the first and last letters of the word are present), for example in abbreviations of academic degrees, titles and street names.
Dr Forsker Forskersen, PhD
Ms Ekstern Lektorinde, MA
Use full stops with the following kinds of abbreviations:
Lauritz B. Holm-Nielsen
George W. Bush
Start the first word of each bullet point with a capital letter.
The following criteria will be applied:
Don’t put full stops in simple lists of items with bullet points.
Subjects offered by the department:
If each bullet point is a full sentence, end each bullet point with a full stop.
The department’s goals are as follows:
Otherwise, no full stops:
The department’s goals are: