I’ll add to this throughout the semester, as I see things in your writing. Maybe this will become our style guide for the class!

Using numerals

When you use numerals in sentences, numbers less than ten should be words, but larger numbers should be written as numerals (until you get back to millions/billions).

The exception to this is if you’re starting a sentence. Sentences always need to start with words, so even if it’s a big number you need to spell it out.

If your number has four or more digits, use commas to format it.

If you are talking about money, you can start the number with a dollar sign, but then don’t use the word “dollar” in your sentence.

Percentages and percentage points

You are almost always talking about a “percentage point” increase or degrease. A percent increase is like compound interest– it adds up!

Words to watch out for

“That” is almost always filler, and can often be dropped to save words.

“They” is a pronoun that can get overused. If you are referring to an object from the previous sentence, it’s okay. But if you move on to a third sentence, you need to bring the object back in explicitly.

“This” as a sentence starter is similar. It’s best practice to take it out and replace with whatever you were trying to reference.


If you are going to use an abbreviation (like “NASA”) in your story, you need to first spell out the entire phrase and use a parenthetical to match. “The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).”


Punctuation goes inside quotation marks. If you have a parenthetical as part of a sentence, punctuation goes outside the parenthesis. (A parenthetical as a full sentence has its punctuation inside.)

If you are using dashes like parentheses, to delineate parts of a sentence, you should be using an “em dash.” To make this in Word, write two dashes in a row and then hit enter.

If you are talking about a range, an “en dash” is the right punctuation.

Hyphens are for compound words.

If you’re making a word possessive that ends with an “s,” you don’t need to include another “s” after the apostrophe.

Oxford comma– we decided as a class that we’re using the Oxford comma. This means, if you’re making a list of things, you put a comma before the “and.” “I bought apples, bananas, and oranges” rather than “I bought apples, bananas and oranges.”