I write letters every day as part of my work as a solicitor.
A solicitor spends a great deal of time reading and writing, and one of the reasons making my living in law is most suitable for me personally is that I love to read and write.
I also adhere easily to rules and regulations, and I like structure and organisation. You could say that this perfect storm of factors has led to me finding my role in my working, business life and professional life.
And there is one further personality trait that seems suitable: I am well known, to those who are closest to me, for being an enthusiastic pedant.
Anyway, in this article/blog post I want to clarify in my own mind the correct punctuation for certain words and phrases that I use on a daily basis.
I have always been uncertain, or unaware, whether Mister should be abbreviated to Mr or Mr. According to the University of Essex guide to punctuation Mr Smith is correct in British/UK English.
So, Mr, Mrs, Ms, Dr and St is correct although most other abbreviations require a full stop e.g. Prof. Johnson, Sgt. Jones.
Latin abbreviations should be avoided in your general writing and are more appropriate in footnotes. This would include e.g. and i.e. It is better to write ‘for example’ and ‘in other words’.
Confusion about how to correctly write a date is something that pops into my mind every day as I write one of the many letters I must write on a daily basis as part of my work. Inserting commas between some, or all, of the words is a habit I developed over the years.
But recently I discovered that this may be incorrect. And on further investigation on the University of Essex guide to punctuation I learn that little punctuation is required in letters.
Thus, 17th day of March 2022 is written 17th March 2022 with no commas, or other punctuation.
Interestingly, I note that the address does not require punctuation either. Therefore my address might be written as
1 Main Street
The greeting in the letter is always followed by a comma-for example, Dear Sir, .
The closing also takes a comma-for example, Yours faithfully, .
Full stops and question marks
Put a full stop at the end of a complete sentence or statement. Do not connect two complete statements with a comma. Use a full stop or a semi colon or a comma and a connecting word-for example, “, and…”.
Use a question mark at the end of a direct question, but not at the end of an indirect question.
Note: punctuation is an aid to understanding, not respiration.
Using a comma wherever you would use a pause whilst reading is advice which is completely wrong.
Numerals and fractions
Numerals and fractions are written with hyphens. For example, twenty-five persons and three-fourths of the population.
This blog post is intended as a sort of self-aid to my own writing efforts, and a place to which I can quickly revert to confirm the punctuation issues I am most likely to make a mess of. I hope you find it useful, too.
The source for the information provided in this post can is the immensely useful guide to punctuation published online by Larry Trask of the Universitey of Essex.