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Punctuation/Use of Italics

The authoritative reference source for punctuation is the Chicago Manual of Style. Most Canadian and American sources agree on punctuation, although British style is different, particularly with regards to quotation marks and the placement of punctuation in relation to the closing quotation mark. Follow the style outlined below for quotation marks, the serial comma, and punctuation in lists.

See also instructions on use of periods in abbreviations and acronymns.

Quotation Marks

(a) Use double quotation marks (“ ”) to enclose a quotation; use single quotation marks (‘ ’) within a quotation:

The author notes that original order “is the equivalent of the 19th-century German idea of an accessible past – ‘wie es eigentlich gewesen,’ Ranke being its best known proponent.”

(b) Place periods and commas inside the closing quotation mark, whether or not the punctuation is part of the material being quoted.

(c) Colons and semicolons always follow the closing quotation mark:

what he said”;

what he said”:

However, when used with a footnote number, they are placed before the number:

what he said”:5

(d) Placement of question marks and exclamation points depends on logic. If the punctuation belongs with the quotation, it comes within the closing quotation mark; if it is not part of the quotation, it goes after the closing quotation mark:

Who said, “Conscription if necessary but not necessarily conscription”?

“Where are you going?” he asked.

(e) Footnote numbers are placed outside quotation marks and parentheses. The only punctuation outside a footnote number is the dash:

“betray the organic integrity of archives by a trendy consumerism.” 1

(as an aside)5

document3 – and paper

Possessive Apostrophes

For general rules, follow CMOS.

Archivaria makes the following exception for possessives of names: no ’s is added to a name that ends in a “z” sound as it would be unpronounceable to add another “z” sound:

Symons’ report (not Symons’s)

Dodds’ article (not Dodds’s)

Matthews’ notes

archives’ own

Harry Jones’ donation

the Joneses’ donation


Coutts’s (“s” sound allows for ’s to be added)

Joint Possession

To show possession by two or more people/nouns, add ’s to the last noun:

Tibbo and Anderson’s article

However, if a pronoun is used in place of one of the names, both the noun and pronoun must show possession (see *CMOS *5.22):

Elliot’s and my research

En-dashes (–), Em-dashes (—)

In text, use an en-dash with a space on either side to stand for an em-dash:

Records come into existence and are set aside - through a recordkeeping activity - to support further activities.

Serial (“Oxford”) Comma

To facilitate comprehension, separate each item in a series by a comma.

Some recent past editors of Archivaria include Sheila Powell, Don Macleod, and Candace Loewen.

Some of the greatest comedians of all time include Charlie Chaplin, the Marx Brothers, and Laurel and Hardy.

Ellipsis Points

Ellipsis points (three dots) are used to indicate omission within a quoted phrase or sentence. Use a space on either side of ellipsis points.

To indicate omission between sentences in a quotation, use a period followed by ellipsis points. The use of four dots (a period plus ellipsis) always suggests that one or more intervening sentences have been deleted. In this case, there is no space before the period (or other punctuation) preceding the ellipsis points.

Archivists are faced with pressing tasks every day – tasks made all the more urgent by the real requirements of budgets and resources, and tasks always shaped by the demands of users who expect both valuable services and personal sympathy.… There is precious little time to bring these to fruition and even less time … for deep discussions of philosophical ideas or their theoretical and practical implications.

When not to use ellipsis points (from CMOS, 13.52)

Ellipsis points are normally not used (1) before the first word of a quotation, even if the beginning of the original sentence has been omitted; or (2) after the last word of a quotation, even if the end of the original sentence has been omitted, unless the sentence is deliberately incomplete.

Setting Apart Quotations

Generally, quotations that are under four lines in length should be included in the running text. Those greater than four lines in length are set apart as block quotations.

Regarding whether or not a quotation or block quotation begins with a capital or lower case, see the rules in CMOS 13.19 and 13.20.

For all quotations, Archivaria follows CMOS 13.7, “Permissible changes to punctuation, capitalization, and spelling,” and therefore there is no need to indicate changes in capitalization of the first word in a quotation by placing square brackets around the initial letter.


There is no house style for punctuation within lists. The main point is to be logical and consistent within the list and throughout the manuscript. If commas or semicolons are used in a vertical list, then the last item should end with a period. Often no punctuation is needed at all. See CMOS 6.130–6.131 for examples. If a list is included in a paragraph and consists of more than two lengthy or complex phrases, use the following as a model:

Buses carry four types of signals throughout the computer: (1) data (the information carried between main memory, the CPU, and peripherals); (2) power (provides DC power to electronic components on the motherboard); (3) control (the signals to manage the transmission and movement of information between devices connected to the motherboard); and (4) address (carries addresses of data and instructions so that the computer knows the location of the next instruction to be executed … ).

Use of Italics

Complete names of acts are in italics (e.g., Canada Evidence Act); for subsequent, abbreviated mentions, use “the Act” or CEA (no italics).

Court cases: Turner v. Canada

Conventions: use italics for complete title of a convention (e.g., Hague Convention); for subsequent mentions, use “the Convention.”

Do not use italics for collections, but use capital letters: Turner Papers; John Turner Fonds.