General Rules for Grammar and Usage

Keep the reader and ease of reading in mind:

Strive for writing that is concise, informal and reads the way people actually talk


Apostrophes

GENERAL

Use to show omitted figures.
The class of '62

Do not use apostrophes with plurals of numerals or multiple-letter combinations.
The 1980s . . . The VFWs

POSSESION

Adding 's to a singular noun indicates possession.
The boy’s shoes…The bird’s nest

Adding 's to a plural noun indicates possession.
The men’s section…The women’s group.

If a plural noun ends in s, only the apostrophe is needed to show possession.
The boys’ shoes…The birds’ nest…Three dollars’ worth

Adding ’s to proper names is done even if the name ends in s.
Ross's Landing . . . Jones's car . . . Sanders’s house

Exceptions: ancient names -- Jesus', Moses', Ramesses', Xerxes', etc.


Commas

ACADEMIC DEGREES

When a name is followed by a degree abbreviation, set the abbreviation off with commas.
John Smith, Ph.D., has been selected . . .

DATES

Use commas only when the specific date is included.

Don’t use commas in month/year references.
Classes began in April 1982…

The first day of class was April 2, 1982 . . .

Abbreviate the names of the following months when they include a specific date:

January, February, August, September, October, November

Jan. 1, 2019

Feb. 14

Aug. 31, 2018

Sept. 5

Oct. 31, 2019

Nov. 11

Dec. 25, 2019

Don’t abbreviate the names of those months when they don’t include a specific day/date:

January 2019

February is national Black History Month.

Classes resume in August 2019.

October 2018 is the last time Halloween will be on the calendar.

Plans are being made for Armistice Day in November 2018.

Fall commencement is in December 2019.

Never abbreviate the names of these months:

March, April, May, June, July


Numbers

Use a comma in figures of 1,000 and higher to help differentiate from references to years.

Enrollment topped 2,000 for the first time since the year 2000.

Don't use commas in street address numbers, room numbers, serial numbers, telephone numbers, years, and temperatures.


Series

Don’t use a comma before the word “and” at the end of a series.

She studied German, French and Spanish.

not

She studied German, French, and Spanish.

Exceptions: Company and corporate names written without commas. 


Special Abbreviations

Unless sentence structure requires it, don’t use commas before or after these: Jr.; Sr.; Inc.; or II, III, etc.

John Smith Jr. is the chair of . . .

We asked John Smith II about the . . .

He works for Smith Inc. in . . .

 

Example of sentence structure requiring comma:

John Smith Jr., first in his family to graduate from UTC, now lives in Chattanooga.