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Punctuation and grammar

Table of contents

Ampersand*

Use the ampersand sign (&) only in these cases:

  • The division names Design & Manufacturing and Media & Entertainment
  • The collection names Architecture, Engineering & Construction Collection, Product Design & Manufacturing Collection, and Media & Entertainment Collection
  • Industry names
  • Tables or graphics in which space is an issue

Do not use ampersands in headings, subheads, or body copy. Do not use a comma before an ampersand.

*Writing for the web? See additional guidance in the Web Editorial Style Guide.

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Apostrophes

Use the apostrophe for possessives and contractions only.

Exceptions: how-to’s, do’s (as in do’s and don’ts)

Do not add an apostrophe before the s when forming the plural of an abbreviation or acronym:

NO: CPU’s, CD’s

YES: CPUs, CDs

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Contractions

Using contractions gives copy a personal and conversational tone. Contractions such as don’t and can’t are fine, but spell them out as do not and cannot if you need emphasis.

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Colons

You can use a colon to indicate a sequence in thought between two clauses that form a single sentence. Capitalize the first word after a colon only if it’s a proper noun or the start of a complete sentence.

Inventor software is highly intuitive: You can begin creating designs on the first day you use it.

However, we recommend that you break the sentence into two shorter sentences—they’re easier to scan.

Inventor software is highly intuitive. You can begin creating designs on the first day you use it.

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

There were three considerations: expense, time, and feasibility.

Use a colon to introduce a series or list even when the introductory text is not a complete sentence.

This chapter describes how to:

  • Define, insert, and explode blocks.
  • Use blocks with layers, colors, and linetypes.
  • Manage external references.

Do not use a colon at the end of a headline or subhead.

See also Bulleted lists.

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Commas

We use the serial comma (also known as the Oxford comma). When a series contains three or more elements, use a comma to separate the elements.

The words screen, menu, and function are always lowercase.

For more comma rules, consult The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition, or one of the grammar books listed in References.

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Ellipsis

Avoid using the ellipsis (…), the set of three periods used to indicate a pause or a place where text is omitted. However, the ellipsis is required in truncated customer quotes that have already gone through the approval process.

In general, treat an ellipsis as a three-letter word, constructed with three periods and two spaces, like this:

“We feel like … the manufacturing company of the future is going to look something like this.”

If you’re omitting text at the end of a sentence, add a period before the ellipsis:

"All of our artists, in some form or another, know Maya and use Maya. …”

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Em dashes

Use a pair of em dashes—close up the spaces surrounding them—to set off parenthetical material more strongly than parentheses or commas.

Do not use more than one set of em dashes per paragraph. Overusing the em dash diminishes its effect.

You can also use a single em dash for strong emphasis.

The hyphen is used to join two parts of some compound words—but not all compound words.

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Exclamation points

Exclamation points give a false sense of drama. Do not use them in any copy.

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Hyphenation

The hyphen is used to join two parts of some compound words—but not all compound words. Check the Spelling list or Merriam-Webster Online. If your word isn’t in either one, use the following general guidelines to help you decide whether to use a hyphen.

  • Use a hyphen to avoid ambiguity. They re-sent the letter makes clear that they don’t hold a grudge against it.
  • No ambiguity? Keep the compound noun open. Disk drive or compile time.
  • Never use a hyphen after modifying adverbs that end in ly, such as closely in the phrase closely related.
  • Hyphenate two-word verbs. Double-click, jump-start, right-click.
  • Hyphenate compound modifiers when they occur before their object, but not after it. An open-ended discussion, but the discussion was open ended. However, whenever possible, avoid the first construction; when compound modifiers are constructed this way they can be difficult to localize. The second construction is much clearer.
  • Do not hyphenate words with the following prefixes, unless the word looks unwieldy or is difficult to read without it or contains a double letter (like non-negotiable): ante, anti, bi, bio, co, counter, cyber, extra, hyper, infra, inter, intra, macro, meta, micro, mid, mini, multi, non, over, post, pre, pro, pseudo, re, semi, sub, super, trans, ultra, un, under.
  • Hyphenate compounds in which the second element is a numeral or a capitalized noun: non-IBM computer.
  • Always hyphenate words with the following prefixes: ex (meaning former), high, low, quasi.

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Italics

Use italics in the following cases:

  • For some (but not all) titles. Use title case and italics for the names of books, magazines, newspapers, plays, movies, videos, games, television shows, webcasts, podcasts, operas, paintings, drawings, statues, and ships.

The Empire Strikes Back

Serial

A Night at the Opera

See the full Titles entry.

  • For emphasis (use sparingly):

Ian Briggs designed Mono with a futuristic look to express a melding of human and machine. “I didn’t want it to be like anything,” he says. “It deserved more than that.”

  • For footnotes.

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Possessives

Form the possessive of a singular noun, including one that ends in s, by adding an apostrophe and an s.

Charles’s vacation

Plural nouns form their possessives with an apostrophe alone.

employees’ health benefits

See The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition, for a complete explanation.

Note: Do not use trademarks as possessives. However, we can use Autodesk as a possessive since it’s our trade name, and is treated as a noun.

NO: AutoCAD’s features

YES: Autodesk’s business strategy

For more information, see Marketing Toolkit – Trademarks (access required).

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Quotation marks

We use American English punctuation. Place periods and commas inside quotation marks. Place colons, question marks, and semicolons outside quotation marks, unless the quote itself ends with those punctuation marks. See The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition.

“I never wake up before noon,” Stormy said.

Did Jane really say, “We’ll meet our quarterly projections”? I heard her say, “Who thinks we will?”

Read the chapter, “The Challenge of Being Creative in the Corporate World”; it’s crucial that you do this by Friday.

I read an excellent book called “The Challenge of Being Creative in the Corporate World.”

Do not use quotation marks to show that a word is used figuratively. Recast colloquial or metaphorical expressions using clearer language.

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Semicolons

Avoid complex sentence structures that use semicolons. Consider breaking the sentence into two shorter sentences, which are easier to scan and better for localization.

NO: AutoCAD LT is great for part-time designers and architects; those new to CAD might require a simpler product.

YES: AutoCAD LT is great for part-time designers and architects. However, those new to CAD might require a simpler product.

Don’t use a semicolon before yet or so. Use a comma.

Use a semicolon as internal punctuation for a complex series or list:

Your choices include a ham, chicken, or tofu sandwich; coffee, tea, or juice; and potato chips or a cookie.

Place semicolons outside quotation marks or parentheses.

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