Punctuation guide

Correctly use punctuation in your content to help readers clearly understand your message.

An en dash shows a range (e.g. dates or times) or a relationship between independent nouns.

En dashes have no spaces either side.

Examples

Ranges

  • See pages 213–224
  • It's a 9–5 job
  • The March–July period

Relationships

  • Mother–daughter relationship
  • Hand–eye coordination
  • Asia–Pacific region

Learn more

See section 11.5.3 in the Web writing and style guide (DOCX, 1.49 MB)

An em dash is used to:

  • amplify or explain
  • show an abrupt change
  • set a phrase apart within a sentence (like brackets).

Em dashes  have no spaces either side.

Examples

Explain

It relates to the sports I played—soccer, cricket, volleyball, and rugby.

Abrupt change

I have a meeting at 1pm—the details are unimportant.

Set a phrase apart

Transfer duty—formerly known as stamp duty—is payable online.

Learn more

See section 11.5.4 in the Web writing and style guide (DOCX, 1.49 MB)

A colon introduces more information, such as a list or definition.

Colons have no capital afterwards except in subtitles (bulleted lists may differ).

Examples

List

Your options include:

  • work alone
  • work in a small team
  • work in a large team.

Definition

  • We provide benefits for employees: free breakfast, a weekly massage and drinks on Fridays.
  • There was only one thing I wanted from my work: to change the world.

Learn more

See section 11.3 in the Web writing and style guide (DOCX, 1.49 MB)

A semicolon connects related clauses that would be abrupt if made into separate sentences.

It also punctuates run-on lists where the list items have internal punctuation.

Examples

Related clauses

The ride lurched up and down; I felt sick.

Run-on lists

Housing and Public Works; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships; and Queensland Health are government departments.

Learn more

See section 11.6 in the Web writing and style guide (DOCX, 1.49 MB)

Both serve to introduce a related element but a dash is stronger (and more informal) than a colon.

A colon informs readers that something more is coming: the words that follow define or clarify what came before the colon.

A dash also introduces extra material but, because it interrupts the flow of the sentence, it’s a more dramatic way of telling the reader to get ready—something important is coming.