The Main Punctuation Marks In Scientific Writing



Comma ,

Use after an introductory word (often an

adverb) in a sentence.

- Subsequently, we stained the


- However, the difference was not

statistically significant.

Use to set off a nonessential clause.

- Scientists, who often work overtime, tend

to lack the time for writing manuscripts.

Use after an introductory (prepositional or

adverbial) phrase.

- Generally speaking, this is sound advice.

Use to separate two independent clauses in a

compound sentence.

- All blood samples were processed, and

IgG levels were determined.


Comma, continued Use to set off appositives or interrupting words.

- Alzheimer's disease, named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer, is the most common form of dementia.

Use before "and" or "or" in a series of at least three items.

- The nature, intensity, and relationship to trial medication of each adverse event were reported.

- Any patient willing to continue with treatment, showing tumor regression, or exhibiting disease stabilization was included in the study.

Hyphen - Use to link two words jointly modifying a third.

- a pale-yellow granular substance; a single-center, double-blind clinical study, low-quality raw material.

NOTE: Do not hyphenate word combinations involving adverbs.

- freshly collected samples; fully informed patients, markedly reduced production cost

Use to avoid confusion.

- The dentist's chair was re-covered. Use in spelled-out compound numbers.

- twenty-one to fifty-five times Use with number modifiers.

- a 20-year old subject; a 2-year study Use in words containing a prefix or suffix.

- anti-inflammatory, pre-existing, a follow-up study

NOTE: Hyphens are no longer necessary for prefixes such as intra, inter, pre, post, non, re, sub, except if two vowels meet.

- intrasubject variation, nonessential clause, postdosing events, recalculated data

Serial comma (also called Oxford comma)



Semicolon ;

Use to link two independent clauses if a sense of "anticipation" is appropriate.

- There are a number of test kits available; however, the standard products are used in most cases.

NOTE: Semicolons should be used sparingly. Unless absolutely necessary, use comma or period (full stop) instead of semicolon.

Colon :

Use only if a sentence or paragraph introduces the text that follows.

- The methods used were as follows:

NOTE: Do not use colons within sentences.


Use to show possession.

- the chemist's bench, Newton's law, the pharmacists' reunion

NOTE: To a plural not ending in "s," add an apostrophe and an "s."

- the children's parents

Use with units of time or money if applied as possessive adjectives.

- of two days' duration, in a few hours' time, 10 cents' worth of advice, 20 years' clinical experience

Slash (virgule) /

Use to indicate "and," "or," or "per."

NOTE: Avoid constructions such as 20 mg/L of NaCl. Reword: NaCl concentration of 20 mg/L

Quotation marks "..."

Use to highlight a term.

- The term "pyrexia" replaces the word "fever" throughout the report.

NOTE: In English, both quotation marks are placed above the word.



Quotation marks, continued

Use to enclose a direct quotation.

- The physician asked, "How are you feeling today?"

NOTE: If you quote material exceeding four typewritten lines, set it off in a block using reduced type size and omit the quotation marks.

Punctuation and "..." quotation marks

Place periods and commas inside quotation marks.

- All students had read "Faust."

- Use the "Instructions for Authors," as they tend to give good advice.

Place semicolons and colons outside closing quotation marks.

Below is a definition of the population termed "evaluable for efficacy":

Place question marks or exclamation points inside quotation marks only when the quotation itself is a direct question or an exclamation. Otherwise, place these marks outside.

The physician asked at regular intervals, "How have you been since the last visit?"

Single quotation marks '...'

Use single quotation marks for quotations within quotations.

- She looked at her students and said, "As my teacher always pointed out, 'Scientific writing can be fun!' "

Ellipses (three spaced . .. dots)

Use to indicate omission of one or more words, lines, paragraphs, or data from quoted material.

- The results indicated ... good agreement between the two methods used.

At the end of a sentence, ellipses follow the final punctuation mark. (The final punctuation mark is set close to the preceding word.)

- All differences tested were statistically significant . .

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