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  • Diana Schneidman

It’s “just” punctuation but here’s a few things worth knowing

(This is short, I promise)

The 16th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style was recently published and it’s got a few tidbits that merit special attention.

Now although I have a degree in English education, I am not the greatest stickler for researching the recommended way to punctuate and such. In fact, I’ve been known to simply select what I like and take a chance that no one will challenge me. (If you’re into challenging, you may notice that the previous sentence has an illegal split infinitive, meaning that a word has been inserted between “to” and “select.” Uh oh.)

The manual’s hometown paper, The Trib, brought the following new decisions to our attention on September 1:

  • The phrases “Northern California” and “Southern California” are capitalized when referring to the region.

  • iPod and similar brand names that start with a lowercase letter are not capitalized even when they start the sentence.

  • It is “US,” not “U.S.,” to denote the United States. And it is “website” rather than “web site.” Good thing because I switched to “website” years ago. Guess that makes me a thought leader rather than lazy.

  • When dividing a URL so it extends to a second line, break before rather than after the slash (/).

Speaking of punctuation, I read something the other day—in the Trib, I think, but I didn’t tear it out—that confirms something else I had already intuited (if that’s a word). It’s acceptable to use more exclamation points in web copy than you would in print copy. (Not much of citation, I know. Sorry.)


Copy written for the Internet benefits from more punctuation because it tends to be terse. It is difficult to determine the inflections without some extra help for the reader.

This is good to know because I have been heavy handed with the online “!” for ages. The only thing holding me back from going hog wild with them is that if every sentence ends in an exclamation, you can’t show relative excitement.

Looks like all caps has been taken off the table because this indicates yelling. Words in italics can be used to indicate voice inflections, but italics without bold look rather weak to me.

So hurray for the exclamation point!

Originally posted 9-7-10

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