Punctuation — The Apostrophe, Dash, Hyphen, and Italics

The Apostrophe

  1. The apostrophe forms the possessive case of nouns.Mr. Smith’s (apostrophe – s) car Bob Davis’s (apostrophe – s) boat — singular the

    Davis’ (s – apostrophe) boat — plural the women’s (apostrophe – s) coats — plural father-in-law’s (apostrophe – s) In hyphenated words, add the apostrophe to the last word.

  2. Apostrophes show the omission of letters or numerals.do not — don’t (apostrophe – t) can not — can’t (apostrophe – t) class of 1984 — class of ’84 (apostrophe – 84)
  3. Apostrophes add clarity when forming the plural of words, letters, symbols, and numbers referred to as words (including acronyms).She earned three A’s (apostrophe – s).There are two MSC’s (apostrophe – s)on post. His 3’s (apostrophe – s) and 5’s (apostrophe – s) look alike. The Cowboys dominated football in the 1970’s (apostrophe – s).Use +’s(apostrophe – s) and -‘s (apostrophe – s) on the test.


The Dash

  1. The dash (indicated by “–” in typing) shows a sudden break in thought.Well, if that’s how you feel –(dash) I guess the game is over.
  2. The dash sets off parenthetical elements.The train arrived –(dash) can you believe it –(dash) right on time.
  3. The dash emphasizes an appositive.Bill only worried about one thing –(dash) food.
  4. The dash precedes the author’s name after a direct quotation.


“That is nonsense up with which I will not put.” –(dash) Winston Churchill


The Hyphen

  1. The hyphen joins compound words.mother-in-law: mother-(hyphen)in-(hyphen)law


  2. The hyphen joins words to make a single adjective.senior-level leadership: senior-(hyphen)level leadership
  3. The hyphen indicates two-word numbers (21 to 99) and two-word fractions.twenty-two: twenty-(hyphen)twothree-fourths: three-(hyphen)fourths
  4. The hyphen separates the prefixes ex- (when it means former), self-, all-, and the suffix -elect from the base word.ex-president: ex-(hyphen) president all-conference: all-(hyphen) conference self-confident: self-(hyphen) confident Senator-elect: Senator-(hyphen) elect
  5. The hyphen indicates words divided at the end of a line.The classroom accommodates thirty-(hyphen and line-break) six people.

Italics (Underlining)

  1. Italics, underlining, designates titles of separate publications. Underlining is used when italics cannot be reproduced (e.g., typewriter).Books — (ital) The Catcher in the Rye (end ital)
    Magazines and newspapers — (ital) Newsweek/The New York Times (end ital)
    Pamphlets — (ital) Bee Keeping (end ital)
    Plays, TV and radio programs,
    and films — (ital) The Burning Bed (end ital)
    Long Pois — (ital) The Candelabras Tales (end ital)
  2. Italics indicate the names of ships, aircraft, and spacecraft.Schultz sailed on the (ital) Enterprise. (end ital)

    The explosion aboard the (ital) Challenger (end ital) was a tragedy.

  3. Italics indicate the titles of paintings and sculptures.(ital) The Mona Lisa (end ital)(ital) Crossing the Delaware (end ital)
  4. Italics indicate foreign words not yet Anglicized.It was a (ital) fait accompli (end ital).
  5. Italics indicate words, symbols, letters, or figures when used as such.The (ital) t (end ital) is often silent.
    Avoid using (ital) & (end ital) in formal writing.
  6. Italics show emphasis.You are (ital) so (end ital) right about the car

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