United Nations Editorial Manual Online
The following is a brief guide to United Nations usage with regard to punctuation. It is not a comprehensive guide to the rules of punctuation in English. Works which may be consulted on the subject are listed in Sources of information/Print. Other sources include:
Note: For punctuation in quotations, see Editorial guidelines/Style/Quotations.
An apostrophe (’s or s’) is not used with an abbreviation or acronym, the name of a country, or the name of an organization, for example:
A colon is used to introduce a quotation or a text table.
The final comma before and is not normally used in United Nations documents. The practice is to write “organs, organizations and bodies”, not “organs, organizations, and bodies”; and “disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration”, not “disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation, and reintegration”.
The chief exception to this practice is in the resolutions of the principal organs. When a paragraph contains several distinct decisions of the organ in question, each introduced by a verb, these are separated by commas, for example:
In other texts, the final comma may sometimes have to be included for the sake of clarity, for instance in an enumeration comprising lengthy or complex elements.
In a sentence such as the following, eliminating the final comma may obscure the meaning:
Commas with “in particular”
A comma is not necessary after “in particular” if it would separate the phrase from the person or thing to which it applies.
Commas in pairs
An en dash is used in ranges of numbers, dates and times:
An en dash, with a space before and after, is also used to express interruption in thought:
A spaced en dash is also used to separate a second subtitle in referenced works:
A semicolon is normally used at the end of a subparagraph, both in resolutions and in reports.
With bullets, the preferred style is no punctuation or a full stop.
For examples of the use of semicolons and bullets, see Editorial guidelines/Format/Paragraphs and subparagraphs and Basic documents/Resolutions and other formal decisions of United Nations organs.
Smart apostrophes and quotation marks
Directional (or smart) apostrophes and quotation marks, also called curly apostrophes and quotation marks, are used in documents and publications. Editors and text-processing staff should ensure that the correct punctuation mark (whether left- or right-facing) is used.
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