Punctuation helps readers understand our content, clarifying, signposting and generally making life smoother for everyone. To make sure that all the dots, lines and squiggles live up to their potential, use them consistently.


Don't capitalise the first word after a colon. For example:

I have several favourite mammals: gorillas, pumas and red pandas.

I have several favourite mammals: gorillas were my first love, but red pandas are a rising star in my life.


We don’t use the serial comma (sometimes called the Oxford comma) except where it’s needed to clarify meaning. In a list of three or more items, don’t include a comma before the conjunction.

The Congo is home to bonobos, okapi and manatees.

The Congo is home to bonobos, okapi, and manatees.

But do use a comma to clarify meaning:

The report discusses the impact of great environmentalists such as Naomi Klein, and Michael Gove.

The report discusses the impact of great environmentalists such as Naomi Klein and Michael Gove.


When offsetting a phrase with dashes you should use the en dash (–), with a space on either side of the dash. For example:

Black plastic – often used for takeaway food – is one of the most problematic forms of plastic you can find on supermarket shelves.

Although we advocate using words rather than symbols, in some contexts you may use a shorter dash to convey a range of numbers. For example, both 10-20 dolphins and 10 to 20 dolphins are acceptable options. We don’t use em dashes (—).

We assign 2-3 people to each boat.


When using quotes, make sure the punctuation relating to the quote sits within quote marks, and the punctuation that doesn’t sits outside it.

Use double speech marks in the first instance, and single speech marks for quotes within quotes.

These quotations are correctly punctuated:

“Would you like to help save orangutans?” he asked.

“I hate orangutans,” she said. “You know I hate orangutans.”

He paused before saying “orangutans are not something people should hate.”


Sentences should always be separated by a single space. Never two spaces.

Ampersands and plus signs

Use “and” instead of an ampersand (&) or plus sign (+), unless they’re part of an official title or company name.


Avoid using the slash (/) symbol. Replace it with words or commas as appropriate.