Punctuation

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Little marks that help in a big way

We outline specific punctuation guidelines for commas, dashes, exclamation points, and more. If something’s not covered here, check the Associated Press Stylebook.

Other countries and languages have their own guidelines for punctuation. In translated and localized versions of our products, work with regional content designers to make sure the punctuation is correct and helpful.


Ampersands

Don’t use ampersands in body text or most headers, unless they’re part of a company name, title, or other proper noun.

Exception: To save space, you can use ampersands in navigation, tweets, and chart and table headers.

The subjects joined by the ampersand must be related.

Note that ampersands might create issues for translation and localization.

Don’t use the plus symbol (+) to mean “and” unless you’re referring to a partnership like “QuickBooks + Square.” See Mathematical symbols and equations


Apostrophes

Use apostrophes to form contractions, possessives, and, in rare cases, plurals.

If it looks or sounds awkward, try rewriting it to avoid the apostrophe.

For joint possession, you only need a single apostrophe. Including apostrophes for each possessor means they each have their own individual thing.

We write like we talk, so use the contractions of everyday conversation. Just don’t get carried away. We don’t use regional contractions like “ain’t”, “shan’t”, “y’all”, “mustn’t”, and so on.

Don’t turn nouns into contractions. In other words, don’t do something like this: Accounting’s a tough subject. Phrases like “accounting’s” get tricky when it comes to translation.

Examples

  • Let’s
  • They’re
  • You’ll
  • It’s
  • Do’s and don’ts
  • Yes’s and no’s
  • CPA’s and PhD’s
  • your business’s growth
  • Phyllis’s first foray into payments
  • our customers’ feelings
  • the growth of your business
  • the first time Phyllis took a job in payments
  • how our customers feel
  • Jack and Jill’s concept pitch moved the audience to tears.
  • Jack’s and Jill’s teams support two completely different business functions.

Asterisks

An asterisk flags a corresponding comment on the bottom of the page. As a general rule, asterisks slow web readers down. You’re interrupting their train of thought and asking them to hunt for secondary information. When possible, avoid them.

For legal disclaimers, there are legal guidelines around how you cite with an asterisk on the web. If it’s a promo or offer, use 1 asterisk.* If it’s for features or product information, use 2 asterisks.** Consult with your legal contact to identify how your legal content should be formatted.

For PDFs only: if there’s more than citation, use superscript and footnote numbers.

The asterisk goes before a dash, but after every other punctuation mark. Do not put the asterisk in the middle of a sentence. Put it at the end. And never use multiple asterisks in one sentence.

Examples

  • Save up to 50%—sale ends Friday.*
  • Health benefits for your team, provided by [partner]**

Brackets

We rarely use angle brackets < >. Use a right angle bracket > for steps that point to specific navigation elements.

Use square brackets [ ] to insert text inside quotes. They can be used for clarifying unstable pronouns, translation, indicating a change in capitalization, censoring objectionable content, or a parenthetical within a parenthetical.

Examples

  • Select >Taxes > Payroll Tax“
  • We’re huge fans of this [point of sale] system because it integrates with QuickBooks.”

Colons

Use a colon when giving examples if it helps make the copy easier to read.

Example

  • Add the sales tax components that make up the combined rate: component names, agencies, and percentages.

Use a colon to introduce a list when the introductory text is a complete sentence.

In general, don’t use colons in headlines and subheads, even when you’re introducing a list. If you feel like you need a colon in a heading, see if there’s space for a subheading instead.

When using an abbreviation with a colon, include the period.

Example

  • Enter invoice no.:

In this example, it might be more conversational to spell out “number.”

If the phrase after a colon is a dependent clause, don’t capitalize the first letter after the colon.

Example

  • To help track your business, import your information: customers, vendors, chart of accounts, and products and services.

If the phrase after a colon is an independent clause, capitalize the first letter after the colon.

Example

  • All bank and credit accounts don’t automatically update nightly: Check with your financial institution.

In this example, it’s probably even better to use a period. This helps keep the copy conversational and simple.

Example

  • All bank and credit accounts don’t automatically update nightly. Check with your financial institution.

Commas

Use the serial (or Oxford) comma: Include a comma before the conjunction in a series of three or more.

Examples

  • Track your income, pay bills, or run payroll.
  • Rely on TurboTax to get your deductions, credits, and more.

Other countries and languages have different guidelines for the Oxford comma. Work with regional content designers to make sure we get it right.


Commas in dates

Don’t use commas for only the month and year or the month and day.

Example

  • January 2018 was a busy month.

Use a comma after the year when starting a phrase or clause with a date.

Example

  • On April 15, 2015, he was living in Los Angeles.

Use commas when writing the month, day, and year.

Example

  • Your taxes are due April 15, 2020.

Commas with conjunctions

Use a comma between two clauses that can stand alone and are linked by a conjunction.

Example

  • I like using TurboTax to do my taxes, because it’s easy to use.

You can use “then” as a coordinating conjunction (even though technically it’s not) when it makes the sentence a quicker read.

Example

  • Go to the store, then go to the bank.

Note: Compound sentences tend to be longer and add a layer of complexity. Don’t overdo them.

Don’t use a comma with a single subject and two verbs. It creates an awkward pause and just looks weird.

Example

  • You can create purchase orders and adjust inventory items.

Commas with salutations or greetings

After a salutation or direct address, use a comma.

Example

  • Hello, Tom.

But if the salutation is a simple “Hi,” omit the comma.

Example

  • Hi Tom.

Note: This guideline is helpful to remember in emails and conversational interfaces.


Dashes and hyphens

Dashes and hyphens aren’t the same thing.

  • A hyphen makes compound words.
  • An en dash (the shorter dash) expresses a range of values (times, years, dollar amounts).
  • An em dash creates an interruption in a sentence like a semicolon, but with flair (we’re partial). (Keyboard equivalent: option/alt, shift, hyphen. In MS Word, add two hyphens without spaces. They'll auto-adjust.)

Don’t include a space on either side of a hyphen or dash.

Use a hyphen if you’re using the number with the unit of measure as an adjective. Don’t use a hyphen when writing terms like “Sign in” unless they’re an adjective describing a noun that follows (ex: sign-in screen). Never use a hyphen for verbs like “set up” when the noun version (setup) is a single word.

Compound adjectives can negatively impact readability, so we should use them sparingly and stick to ones that are commonly used or familiar.


Hyphenated words

For common prefixes, such as re-, pre-, non-, anti-, multi-, bi, and so forth, don’t use the hyphen.

Exceptions: e-commerce, e-file, e-pay, multi-user, non-posting, non-sufficient, sub-category

Examples

Hyphens

  • Run in-depth sales reports.
  • Get one-on-one help from a tax expert.
  • Help clients understand payroll details with pre-configured reports.
  • I’m reading nineteenth-century novels in the early twentieth century.
  • You can review your taxes on a 12-week schedule.

En-dash examples

  • $500–$800
  • 7:00–9:00 PM
  • 2004–2016

Em-dash examples

  • Sit back and learn—see our video.
  • To estimate quarterly tax payments, you need a projection—an educated guess—of yearly profit.
  • —Suze Orman

Words that don't need hyphens

Examples

  • antibody
  • antitrust
  • antivirus
  • biannual
  • biennial
  • copay
  • coworker
  • multicolor
  • multicultural
  • multilevel
  • nonprofit
  • nontaxable
  • nonresident
  • noninventory
  • online
  • preassigned
  • predefined
  • preexisting
  • preselected
  • unpaid

Ellipses

Use an ellipsis (…) to indicate an omission in quoted text, to mask sensitive data, to convey action in the background (like loading), to represent overflow text, or to indicate hesitation, faltering speech, or thoughts.

Make sure there’s no space between the last letter and the first period. Don’t use ellipses for dramatic effect or in place of commas or dashes.

“It’s highly professional yet so easy to use… I’d be lost without it.”
Checking for updates…
Almost there…
Total checking (…1234)

Click Customers > Enter Vehicle Mileage…
Profits you can picture… so you can plan for what’s next


Exclamation points

You can express enthusiasm with exclamations. Just make sure they sound like a natural reaction to the situation. They communicate positive emotion and work best with single words and short phrases.

Use exclamation points sparingly. They’re not required with all interjections.

Don’t follow an exclamation point with a question mark or other punctuation (unless it’s part of a title or trademarked proper noun; that’s definitely an edge case).

And don’t use a double (!!) or triple (!!!) exclamation. If you’re that excited, use visual supplements like color, illustrations, and motion to amplify the excitement. And don’t use two or three exclamatory words in a row.

Great! Let’s start by getting to know you.

Quarterly and year-end tax relief is here!

Yahoo!, Google, and Apple

Congratulations! You filed your taxes. Here’s what’s next.

Nice! You completed your first payroll run.

Well done! You created your first invoice.

Congratulations! You’re ready to make online payments.

Way to go! You created your first profit and loss report.

Don’t miss out! Sign up for QuickBooks Connect before it sells out.

Enter your email address!

Can you believe it?!

You’re getting a refund!!!

Do you really want to delete these transactions? Yikes!

Uh-oh! We couldn’t sync your app with QuickBooks.

Voila! Here’s the customer you’re looking for!

We found 10 more transactions like that one!!

Get the first 30 days free!!!

Sign up for QuickBooks Connect before it’s too late!

Sign up for QuickBooks and get your first month free!


Hashtags

Everyone uses hash marks for hashtags in tweets—hashtag away. Where we don’t use a hashtag is in place of the word “number.” Go with “No.” instead.

Attn. #smallbiz: Here’s how to use #PokemonGo to lure more Pokemon and customersInvoice no.

Invoice #


Parentheses

Use parentheses in pairs to provide examples, add an aside, or introduce an abbreviation.

Parenthetical text can be a word, a fragment, or multiple sentences. Your sentence should make sense when you read it out loud without the parenthetical text.

If a sentence ends with a parenthetical that’s only part of a larger sentence, the period goes outside the closing parenthesis. If the parenthetical itself is a whole sentence, the period goes inside the parenthesis.

Examples

  • Federal exempt forms (like IRS 501c3 forms) don’t apply to state sales tax.
  • Protect your account by turning on multifactor authentication (MFA).
  • A balance sheet report calculates how much your business is worth (your business’s equity) by subtracting all the money your company owes (liabilities) from everything it owns (assets).
  • Fill out the Reconcile Statement

Percent symbol

Use the percent symbol (%) with numerals. Use the word “percent” in other instances.

Examples

  • Your taxes are down 12%.
  • We don’t know the percent of returns like yours.
  • 85% of attendees agreed to be interviewed. We’re impressed with the high percentage of responses.

Periods

Use periods to end a sentence, unless it ends with a question mark or exclamation point. Use a period at the end of an abbreviation. If a sentence ends with an abbreviation, you don’t need an additional period.

Don’t use periods in headlines or email subjects. Preheaders are OK.

Headlines should be crisp and digestible. Adding periods to headlines may slow readers as they move down the page. You can use periods at the end of a sentence or fragment if you’re going for impact.

Use exclamations and question marks sparingly in headlines. In cases where part of the headline/subject uses an exclamation, use a period for the remaining parts to stay consistent. Place one space after periods, not two.

QuickBooks knows how to write a full sentence. (Regular sentence)

Congratulations! You’re approved. (Adjacent to punctuation)

Snap a photo of your receipt (Headline)

Get it done. Get paid. (Impact headline)

Take photos of your receipts and link them to transactions. (Subhead)

View your latest report (Subject)

Check out how your business is doing. (Preheader)

Next, let's look at your income (Header in product flow)

QuickBooks knows how to write a full sentence (Regular sentence)

Congratulations! You’re approved (Headline)

Snap a photo of your receipt!! (Headline)

Track miles. (Headline)

Take a look below and get to know all of the features of QuickBooks Online. (Headline)


Pipes

Use a pipe | (vertical bar) in title tags to separate elements of the title. Search engines will highlight keywords that you include in those tags in the results if someone uses those keywords to search. Social media and other external sites often use the title tag of a page as its link anchor text.

Examples

Primary keyword | Secondary keyword | Brand name

Pipes | Punctuation | Intuit content design


Question marks

Use a question mark at the end of a direct question.

Don’t use more than one together (???) or pair it with an exclamation point (?!).

Examples

  • How do you want to enter your income?
  • Did we get this right?

Quotation marks

Use quotation marks for spoken words or short quoted phrases.

Put commas and periods inside closing quotation marks.

Other punctuation marks (colons, semicolons, question marks, exclamation points) go outside closing quotation marks, unless they’re part of the quote.

Avoid using quotation marks for emphasis. Instead, bold words or phrases you want to emphasize.

Examples

  • “Just sorted four months of transactions in 20 minutes.”
  • “It’s a huge efficiency,” he said, “that also saves us money each month.”
  • I’m not sure we need “each month”—should we just end with “saves us money”?

Semicolons

Don’t use semicolons. They’re a bit too formal for digital content. Instead, separate independent clauses with a period or with conjunctions like “and,” “or,” “but,” and “so.”

Let’s say you’re creating an invoice. Go to Create (+) invoice.

Let’s say you’re creating an invoice; go to Create (+) invoice.


Slashes

Use slashes when necessary to mean “per,” “and,” or “or.” Slashes can also form certain abbreviations or indicate two-year spans. Don’t use spaces on either side of the slash.

Examples

  • $10/month
  • Contact us for 24/7 support.
  • Enter an item in the Product/Service field.
  • c/o (care of), P/E (price-to-earnings ratio), w/ (with)
  • 2015/2016 fiscal year