Punctuation

Generally
Colons
Semicolon
Series
Other Uses of Semicolons
Commas
Parentheses
Apostrophes
Hyphens
Numbers
Time Periods
Compound Words
Words that are Not Compound Words
Quotation Marks
Generally
Punctuation within Quotation Marks
Brackets
Underscore and Underline

Generally

Punctuation is an important part of rulewriting. It should be used properly and uniformly. A rulewriter should know the principles of punctuation as well as the rulewriter knows the principles of construction and format.

All rules should be drafted according to generally accepted standards of punctuation. Many of these standards are discussed in this section.

Colons

Next to commas, colons and semicolons are perhaps the most overused and misused punctuation in legal drafting. The following are basic principles that should be followed in using colons.

  • Use a colon to precede a series of separately listed subsections.

  • Use a colon to precede a series of complete sentences only when drafting definitions.

Semicolon

The following are basic principles that should be followed in using semicolons.

Series

The most common proper use of a semicolon is at the end of an enumeration in separate paragraphs that are dependent clauses, incomplete sentences, either in the conjunctive or disjunctive, preceded by a colon, and not capitalized.

Example:

(1) A person does not violate the licensing terms under this section if the person:

(a) receives a certificate of authority under Subsection R156-5-5(2); and

(b) displays the certificate of authority at the person's principal place of business.

A rulewriter should not write lists in which sentences are attached to phrases or clauses. If there is only one inserted sentence, the rulewriter can move the sentence to the end of the list or convert the sentence into a dependent clause. It may be necessary to turn the list into a list of sentences so that the inserted sentence can directly follow the item it explains. If the list is converted to a list of sentences, then the introductory phrase should also be a sentence and not a phrase followed by a colon.

If the series following the introduction consists of complete sentences:

DO NOT SAY: SAY:
(1) The commission may not… except as follows:… (1) Except as provided in this Subsection (1), the commission may not…

The one exception to the general rule that complete sentences should not follow a colon is when the rulewriter is defining terms either in a section devoted primarily to definitions or in a subsection of a section. Definitions should be drafted as complete sentences introduced by a dependent clause regardless of whether the definitions are placed in a separate section or in a subsection of a section.

Example:

As used in this rule:

(1) “Employer” means the state of Utah.

(2) “Office” means the State Retirement Office.

(3) “Termination date” means June 30, 2006, 12 midnight.

Other Uses of Semicolons

In addition to use in series, semicolons are also used in drafting to separate:

  • two main clauses that are not joined by a conjunction; or

  • elements, such as items in a series, which themselves contain commas.

In circumstances involving the points above, it is usually clearer to use separate sentences than to combine ideas using semicolons. For this same reason, the rulewriter should avoid the use of the phrases “provided, however” and “provided, further,” and other provisos. In the rare case when the use of the phrase cannot be avoided, it should be preceded by a semicolon.

Often, the rulewriter will come across existing rule text that includes colons and semicolons that do not conform to these principles. The rulewriter should amend existing rule text to make it conform with proper paragraphing style if those changes would not cloud the meaning of the proposed rule.

Commas

Commas are inserted to separate a series of words, phrases, or clauses. When used properly, they are a useful writing tool. However, the overuse or incorrect use of commas is the most common error in drafting. Two general principles should always be observed:

  • Commas should not be used if they interrupt the thought of the sentence; and

  • Commas should be used if they make the meaning more clear.

In addition to these general principles, the rulewriter should use the following specific standards.

1. Use a comma to separate words and phrases in a series, including the word or phrase immediately before a conjunction. This is known as a “serial” comma.

Examples:
oil, gas, or minerals
Data obtained pursuant to this section is not subject to civil, criminal, judicial, administrative, or legislative proceeding.
The division shall participate with local government agencies in the development of a health statistics system, the production of comparable and uniform health information, and the implementation of health-related policies.

2. Use a comma between adjectives preceding a noun if they are coordinating qualifying words.

Example:
The budget document shall be a brief, simple, uniform report.

3. Use a comma to set off nonrestrictive appositives. These are nouns or pronouns placed next to other nouns or pronouns that add nonessential details about the noun or pronoun.

Examples:
The director, who is appointed by the governor, shall keep and maintain records.
The director, unless ill, shall report annually to the executive director.

Use a comma to set off a nonrestrictive adjective clause. This is a clause that describes but does not limit the meaning of something.

Example:
The fund account, which contains revenues from the fees collected, shall be administered by the county treasurer.

Do not use a comma to set off a restrictive adjective clause. This is a clause that is needed to make the meaning clear.

Examples:
The fund account that contains revenues from the fees collected shall be administered by the division.
The person who serves as the executive secretary of the commission may hire additional clerical assistance as necessary.

“Which” is used when a relative clause conveys additional information or is parenthetical. “That” is used when the clause is restrictive. For further discussion of how to use “that” and “which”, see the section called “That, Which”.

Use a comma between the parts of a compound sentence when punctuation is needed for clarity or to provide an additional idea. A compound sentence contains two or more independent clauses connected by a conjunction.

Example:
The division shall fund the program from its general operations budget, but they shall expend no less than $100,000 on the program.

If two independent clauses are joined by a coordinating conjunction and the coordinating conjunction is followed by a phrase or dependent clause, then no comma is placed after the conjunction.

Example:
The fund account shall be administered by the division, and other provisions of this section notwithstanding, the executive director shall report on the fund's administration.

Normal usage permits placing a comma before a conjunction that connects two independent clauses, each having a subject and a predicate. Often, however, independent clauses are sufficiently long to justify making them separate sentences. In these cases, use two separate sentences rather than two independent clauses connected by a comma because the use of two independent clauses makes the sentence too long and difficult to follow.

Examples:
The board shall select one of its members as chair, but if that member is not a legislator, that member may not serve more than one term.
The director shall be administrative head of the Division of Wildlife Resources. The director shall be a person experienced in administration and the protection of wildlife.

Do not use a comma to separate the parts of a compound sentence if the clauses are short and closely related.

Example:
The director is the head of the division and shall be experienced in administration.

Do not use a comma between the verbs of a compound predicate. This is a simple sentence that contains two or more verbs with the same subject.

Example:
The chair shall be a member of the board and licensed under this rule.

Use a comma to set off introductory and transitional words or phrases.

Example:
In the case of an emergency, the director may…

Use a comma after introductory participial and absolute phrases.

Example:
After the votes are counted, the election judge shall seal the election pouch.

Do not use a comma to set off restrictive participial phrases. This is a phrase that is essential to the meaning of the sentence.

Example:
All persons seeking to practice in Utah shall apply with the division for a license.

Use a comma to set off a contrasted word or phrase.

Example:
Meetings of the commission shall be set by majority vote of the members, not by the chair.

If the day of the month is stated in a date, use a comma before and after the year.

Example:
This program begins on July 1, 2005, and ends on June 30, 2010.

A comma is not needed if the day is omitted.

Example:
The events of July 1989 led to the establishment of …

For further discussion on dates, see the section called “Dates or Time”.

Use a comma to set off figures in groups of four or more numerals.

Example:
1,000,000
1,500

For further discussion on commas used in money, see the section called “Money”.

Use a comma to set off words, phrases, and clauses that would otherwise be unclear.

DO NOT SAY: SAY:
When I was to begin the speech ended. When I was to begin, the speech ended.

Parentheses

Avoid parentheses except for use in equations, endnote reference numbers, or when defining acronyms. In general, words and phrases should be set off by commas rather than parentheses. If text is important enough to include in rule, it should not be included parenthetically.

Example:
Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA)

Apostrophes

Use apostrophes to indicate the possessive only, either in the singular or plural, as in “director's” or “workers'.” Do not use contractions, such as “can't” and “doesn't.” Do not confuse “its” with “it's or “whose” with “who's.”

Hyphens

Hyphens should be used sparingly in rule text.

Numbers

See the section called “Numerical References” for hyphenation of numbers.

Time Periods

Hyphens are used in periods of time when expressed in either Arabic numerals or spelled out to begin a sentence.

Example:
60-day period
Three-week period
Five-year review

Compound Words

Compound words can be closed (one word), open (two words without a hyphen), or hyphenated. The trick is in trying to decide when to spell the word as closed, open, or hyphenated. First, always consult a good comprehensive dictionary if you have any questions about whether a compound word is spelled with a hyphen. This should provide the answer in most cases. In the event that the dictionary is silent, the following general rule may be helpful: if the compound is being used as an adjective before a noun and if there is a risk of ambiguity, spell the compound using the hyphenated form. However, do not hyphenate compound adjectives if the first word ends in “ly.”

Example:
ready-made
readily available

The following is a list of compound adjectives that require the use of a hyphen:

Example:
consumer-related problem joint-stock company part-time employee
even-numbered years last-known address state-owned property
habit-forming drugs law-abiding citizen tax-supported universities
hearing-impaired student life-sustaining procedure
interest-free loan low-income housing units

Words that are Not Compound Words

In general, words which are not compound words are not hyphenated. This means that you should not use the hyphen to provide for a more graceful breaking of the line. In no cases should you use the automatic hyphenation provided by word processing software. When in doubt about the use of a hyphen consult a comprehensive general dictionary.

Quotation Marks

Generally

As a general principle, the rulewriter should use quotation marks in only three situations.

  • Use quotation marks to enclose definitions in a definition section of a rule. Do not use quotation marks again to enclose a defined term in the body of the rule.

Examples:
(1) “Department” means the Department of Commerce.
The executive director of the department shall…
  • Use quotation marks to enclose titles at the beginning of a statute. However, as with definitions, quotation marks should be used only in their original reference.

Examples:
This chapter is known as the “Utah Administrative Rulemaking Act.”
In accordance with Title 63, Chapter 46a, Utah Administrative Rulemaking Act, the division may…
  • Use quotation marks to enclose the contents of a form, sign, or label.

Example:
All flavoring containers shall be plainly labeled “flavorings”…

Before quotation marks are used, the rulewriter should make certain that WordPerfect's QuickCorrect or Word's AutoCorrect features have been disabled. These features automatically convert quotes into publishing quotes. For more information, see the section called “Symbols”.

Punctuation within Quotation Marks

Punctuation is placed outside quotation marks, except for periods and commas which are placed inside quotation marks. However, when describing a form, sign, or label, periods and commas that are not part of a form, sign, or label should also be placed outside quotation marks.

Examples:

… the word or phrase “Utah,” or “United States,” and words used in conjunction with them such as “United States Government”;

(1) all flavoring containers shall be plainly labeled “flavorings”; and

The sign shall read “Warning: The consumption of alcoholic beverages purchased in this establishment may be hazardous to your health and the safety of others”, and shall be mounted in a conspicuous place.

Brackets

Use brackets (“[” or “]”) in rule drafting to indicate deleted material only. Brackets may not be used within the text of a rule. Brackets, and the text between them, are automatically deleted when a rule is codified. For more information, see the section called “Changes to Rule Text”.

Underscore and Underline

Avoid the use of the underscore if at all possible. Underlining is used in rulewriting to marking added words and punctuation in a new rule or rule amendment. Obviously, the use of the underscore character in new language would be obscured by the underline, resulting in potential misunderstanding on the part of the reader.

Do not use features in word processing programs that automatically create links of Internet addresses. This formatting is typically associated with the insertion of unnecessary codes in the documen. For more information, see the section called “Changes to Rule Text”.