Grammar & mechanics

FS Style choices for some fundamentals of punctuation and areas of style.

Abbreviations & acronyms

[≠SW] – Different from Sangha Words (see About this guide)
[FSS] – Different from Oxford Style (see About this guide)
[TBC] – To be considered. Indicates the matter is yet to be discussed by the SPN.
An. – Anagarika
Aj. – Ajahn
Br. – Brother
EC – Elders’ Council
ECM – Elders’ Council Meeting
IEM – International Elders’ Meeting
ODE – Oxford Dictionary of English (FS Style reference for UK English)
OED – Oxford English Dictionary
OUP – Oxford University Press
NOAD – New Oxford American Dictionary (FS Style reference for US English)
p. – page; pp. – pages
Sam. – Samanera
SPN – Sangha Publications Network
Sr – Sister (UK); Sr. – Sister (US)
TBA – To Be Announced
TBD – To Be Determined
URL – the address of a World Wide Web page. Plural: URLs
Ven. – Venerable
WPN – Wat Pah Nanachat
WPP – Wat Pah Pong

File formats:



Sentence case & title case

Content ... 


Dashes & hyphens


Date forms

Use the following date forms:

UK:  1 September 2016
         1–5 September 2016
         1 September

US:  September 1, 2016
        September 1–5, 2016
        September 1

UK/US:  2016-9-1

Note that en dashes are used to separate figures in ranges of dates, not hyphens:

YES: Sep. 1–5
NO: Sep. 1-5 X

Do not use -st, -nd, rd, or -th after the figure (do not write: 1st September 2016), unless it stands alone in the text:

YES: They met on the 1st.
YES: They met on the first.

YES: They met on 1 September 2016. (UK)
YES: They met on September 1, 2016. (US)
NO: They met on 1st September 2016. X
NO: They met on September 1st, 2016. X

YES: They met on 1 September 2016 and parted on the 18th. (UK)
YES: They met on September 1, 2016 and parted on the 18th. (US)

Do not use superscripts with dates in normal text – spell out 1st, 2nd, etc. using letters sized the same as the surrounding text. (Superscripts may sometimes work as decorations on a poster or invitation card, or for other decorative uses.) (≠SW)

If the day is written before the date, separate it with a comma: Thursday, 1 September 2016.  Use a second comma if the sentence follows on: On Thursday, 1 September 2016, they finally met. There is no comma between month and year: It was in September 2016.

YES: Thursday, 1 September 2016. (UK)
YES: Thursday, September 1, 2016. (US)
NO: Thursday September 1, 2016. X

YES: They met in September 2016. (UK/US)
NO: They met in September, 2016. X

The year-month-day form, with the elements separated by hyphens (2016-9-1), is becoming widely adopted due to the confusion caused by differences between American and international practice in placing the day or month first (9/1/16 is September 1 to an American reader and 9 January to a British reader). Year-month-day is clear to everyone, and is preferred in FS Style. (Incidentally, it also makes for a good filing system if document titles use this format, as they automatically fall into historical order when sorted by name.)

Date: 2016-9-1
2016-9-1 ECM Minutes [for a document title]

Times of day

Use words, and no hyphens, with reference to whole hours and to fractions of an hour: four (o’clock);  half past four; a quarter to four. Use o’clock only with the exact hour, and with time expressed in words:

YES: four o’clock
NO: half past four o’clock X
NO: 4 o’clock X

Do not use o’clock with a.m. or p.m., but rather write, for example, eight o’clock in the morning:

YES: eight o’clock in the morning
NO: eight o’clock a.m. X

Use figures with a.m. or p.m.:

YES: 4 p.m.
NO: Four p.m. X

12 a.m. = midnight; 12 p.m. = noon. If this may be misunderstood, spell it out as 12 midnight and 12 noon. The twenty-four-hour clock avoids the use of a.m. and p.m.: 12:00 is noon, 24:00 is midnight.

In British English use a period to separate hours from minutes: 4.30 p.m. In North America, Scandinavia, and elsewhere use a colon: 4:30 p.m.

UK:  1.35 p.m.
US:  1:35 p.m.

Use figures when minutes are included: 4:30 p.m. For a round hour it’s not necessary to include a colon and two zeros: prefer 4 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

p.m. and a.m. – use periods: 4 p.m. In some contexts – apart from narrative text, where the periods are required – such as in website calendar entries where space is at a premium, it may be appropriate to omit the periods, and even the space:  4pm or 4 pm.


Content ...


Content ... 


Use the serial comma ( a, b, and c )

Use a comma to separate the last items in a list:

YES: Apples, oranges, bananas, and blueberries.
NO: Apples, oranges, bananas and blueberries.

Bullets ( • )

The text introducing a list of bullet points should end with a colon:

This is a list:

•  bullet
•  bullet

If the text that follows the bullet point is not a complete sentence, it doesn’t need to begin with a capital letter and it should not end with a period. For example: 

Frequently given gifts include:

•  razor blades
•  paper towels, tissues, and toilet paper

If the text following the bullet point is a complete sentence, it should begin with a capital letter. A period at the end is technically required but is not absolutely essential. FS Style is generally to use a period: 

Some points to keep in mind are:

•  Listen first, and speak only after considering what you’ve heard.
•  There may be factors about which you are unaware.

Use the same typeface and margin width for each bulleted section within a document.

Numbers and letters ( 1) … a) … )

Treat text in numbered or lettered lists the same as in bulleted lists, where the formatting is similar (indented, one item per line). In lists that appear within a running sentence, decide on a format and keep it consistent throughout the publication – and possibly also consistent with such formatting in other publications from the same monastery or publisher. The usually prefferred format is a number or lower case letter followed by a round bracket: 1) … 2) … 3) … or a) … b) … c) ….


Content ...


Content ...


Following are some punctuation areas not covered elsewhere on this page. For more, see Sangha Words or the Oxford Dictionaries website.

( ’ ) Apostrophes


( , ; : ) Commas, semicolons, and colons

Use the serial comma (also known as the Oxford comma, or Harvard comma); that is, place a comma before ‘and’ or ‘or’ in a list of three or more items:

Bring your razor, toothbrush, and towel.
Bring your towel, bathing cloth, or something else to dry yourself with.

Use a comma when you would briefly pause in reading the sentence aloud. Advice from the Harvard Writing Center

If the rules you learned about commas and semi-colons don’t mean much to you, forget them and try this: Read one of your sentences aloud and see where you would naturally pause, where you would draw a breath. If it’s a short pause, like that just was, you probably need a comma. If it’s a longer pause, but not quite a full stop (for which you’d need a period), you probably need a semi-colon; remember that whatever follows a semi-colon must be able to stand on its own, as a full sentence, like this one.

If you don’t want your reader to pause, there shouldn’t be a comma, there, because as, this demonstrates it’s very difficult to figure, out, what you’re saying when your punctuation, makes the sentence unreadable.

Your sentences shouldn’t leave your reader hyperventilating from the constant shallow breaths that over-punctuation requires. Nor should they be gasping for breath at the end of a long, unpunctuated sentence. (Consider yourself responsible for your readers’ cardiovascular health.)

Use a semicolon when

Use a colon when

No capital after colon ... 

( - – — ) Dashes & hyphens

( . ) Periods/full stops

(.  ) One space – not two – after periods/full stops

Always use only one space after a period, rather than two (the convention of using two spaces was used for text typed with typewriters).

YES: The sun set. The moon had not yet risen. I sat and watched the stars.
NO: The sun set.  The moon had not yet risen.  I sat and watched the stars. X

( … ) Elipses

( ) [ ] Parentheses/brackets

US: usually called parentheses ( ) and brackets [ ]
UK: usually called round brackets ( ) and square brackets [ ]

Punctuation with parentheses ( … ).

A complete sentence within parentheses is capitalized and ends in a period:

The meeting took place in the sala. (It was raining.)
(It was raining, so the meeting took place in the sala.)

If the parenthetical matter is part of a larger sentence, that sentence’s  punctuation lies outside the parentheses:

YES: The meeting took place in the sala (it was raining).
NO: The meeting took place in the sala (it was raining.) X

YES: The meeting took place in the sala (it was raining), and luckily everyone fit.
NO: The meeting took place in the sala (it was raining,) and luckily everyone fit. X

(US v UK: This is the UK convention, and while US convention often differs on this point, FS Style recommends using this punctuation style for parentheses in all publications – including those in US English, in which it is perfectly acceptable.)

Punctuation that has to do solely with the parenthetical matter lies within the parentheses:

I volunteered to lead the chant (would I remember it?) and reached for the book.
I opened the book (I couldn’t remember the passage!), searched, and found it.
I opened the book in hope (I couldn’t remember the passage!).

No extra punctuation is needed before the opening parenthesis within a sentence:

The meeting considered (a) how many to designate, (b) who would go, and (c) which dates to suggest.

Nested parentheses ((…))

Try to avoid using parentheses within parentheses. When inevitable, FS Style (and Oxford) prefers double parentheses to brackets within parentheses (the usual US convention). Double parentheses are closed up, without spaces:

Wat Nong Pah Pong (abbot: Luang Por Liem (not Liam))
It was not contained in the document’s title ((Initial) Forest Survey (2013) – Summary).

Brackets [ ]

Brackets are mainly used to represent a voice or author other than the voice or author of the surrounding text:

The meeting took place in the sala [a large monastery building – ed.].
According to the document, “the results are prefectly [sic] clear”.
According to the document, “the results [of the agreement] are perfectly clear”.

( “ ” ‘ ’ ) Quotation marks/inverted commas