Minimal punctuationApril 13, 2012
Another post inspired by a writing tip I wrote for my work colleagues.
Bottom line: Eliminate unnecessary punctuation, as long as it doesn’t change your meaning
The most recent edition of the Australian ‘Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers’ (2002) advocates the use of ‘minimal punctuation’. However, ‘minimal punctuation’ doesn’t mean NO punctuation, nor does it mean removing punctuation that might change meaning. What it does mean is getting rid of punctuation that serves no particular purpose and that is possibly a hangover from your school or university days.
Full stops (p97): Do not use a full stop (‘period’ in the US) after:
- page headers and footers
- lists that comprise short items
- certain types of shortened forms (see below for examples)
- symbols for units of measurement.
Shortened forms (p152–153):
|abbreviations||first letter of a word, perhaps some other letters, but NOT the last letter||use a full stop after the abbreviation||Mon., Dec., fig., no., etc., e.g., Vic.|
|contractions||first and last letters, sometimes other letters in between||no full stop||Mr, Dr, Qld, Rd, dept, Cth|
|acronyms||strings of initial letters pronounced as a word||no full stops||ASEAN, TAFE, Qantas, SIMOPS, SEWPaC|
|initialisms||strings of initial letters NOT pronounced as a word||no full stops||WA, QMS, ROV, MOF, LNG|
|symbols||such as SI units||no full stop||km, %, kW, mL|
|academic degrees/qualifications||no full stops or spaces||BA, BEng, BSc, CPA, PhD|
Bullet lists (p142):
- colon (:) immediately after the lead-in to clarify the link between the lead-in and the information that follows
- no punctuation at the end of dot points that are not ALL full sentences (exception: the last point takes a full stop to show that the series is complete)
On a related note, the Australian Style Manual (p144) states that ‘there is no need to add and at the end of the second-last dot point. …the clear wording of the lead-in material [is] sufficient to show the relationship between various items. … A carefully worded lead-in is also usually sufficient to show when dot points are being presented as alternatives [and thus or is also often not required].’
(Of course, you may use quite a different style guide and its instructions — especially regarding bullet list punctuation — may well be contradictory to this advice. Always follow your own organization’s style guide.)