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Format and Style Guide

This style guide contains a set of standards for writing that adhere to proper syntax in grammar and punctuation, according to Canadian publishing practices. 

The OIW Anthology team will make light suggestions based on these guidelines.. OIW strongly recommends that all members familiarize themselves with these guidelines and incorporate in their manuscripts.

Grammer Editing

Format for Submissions


  • 12-point Times New Roman throughout

  • Pages 8.5" x 11.0"

  • Align text left

  • Paragraphs tabbed at 0.25″ (0.63 cms) not the default setting of 0.5″ (1.26 cms)

  • No tab on first paragraph of new section

  • No line between paragraphs

  • Double line spacing

  • One space between sentences, not two

  • No space after the period that ends a paragraph

  • Two double-space lines between sections. No symbols in the space

  • Titles, section headings, etc. aligned left

  • Plain text for all headings; no bold, underline, italic or uppercase

  • Paginate at bottom centre

  • Black default type colour

  • Avoid citing hyperlinks

Spelling and Grammar


Canadian standards are used throughout:

  • Canadian Oxford Dictionary, Second Edition, 2004

  • The Canadian Style, Dundurn Press, Toronto, 1997

  • We search: Termium



  • Commas: Do not overuse commas. Read long or problematic sentences out loud. This will help in deciding how best to punctuate.

  • Use single quotes (‘xx’) for direct speech only

  • Use double quotes (“xx”) in all other applications:

‘He told me he was a “doctor” but I didn’t believe him.’

  • Punctuation of speech: Consider the following examples:

        ‘Let’s do it,’ she said quietly.

        ‘Let’s do it!’ she yelled. (Note no comma after exclamation)

        ‘Shall we do it?’ she asked. (Note no comma after question mark)

        ‘I wish,’ she said, ‘we could do it.’ (Note comma and lower case ‘we’)

        ‘I wish we could,’ she said. ‘Do you want to?’ (Note period and upper case ‘Do’)

        ‘I wish we could…’ she sighed. (Note no comma after ellipsis)

  • Possessives: For names ending in ‘s’, use an apostrophe:

        ‘Morris’ head was full of…’

    If there is a problem with pronunciation, add an ‘s’ after the apostrophe:

        ‘Morris’s head was full of…’

    With a plural possessive add an apostrophe after the ‘s’:

        ‘The delegates’ choice was…’ (Note there is more than one delegate)

        ‘It’s’ is a contraction of ‘it is.’ It is never used as a possessive

Do not use an apostrophe in a plural; it is only used for possessives or abbreviations:

        ‘Grandma’s make life more beautiful’ begs the question ‘Grandma’s what?’    

  • Use a semicolon to separate parts of a sentence that are too far apart for a comma, yet not distinct enough to make a separate sentence:

        Not: ‘She watched him doing it, it made her crack up laughing’

        But: ‘She watched him doing it; it made her crack up laughing’

  • Use commas and semicolons for extended lists:

Ships, both steam-driven and sail; aircraft, having jets or propellers; and all other vehicles that could be brought into use

  • Avoid using a comma before ‘and’ in a list (the serial, or so-called Oxford, comma):

        Not: Stars, nebulae, planets, and comets

        But: Stars, nebulae, planets and comets

  • A comma should be used in a list where it is followed by further description:

‘Stars, planets, and comets that originated in the Oort Cloud.’

  • An ellipsis (three dots—which is applied automatically by your software—followed by a space) is intended to indicate a pause or an incomplete thought:

‘Look, I wanted to… it’s… I’m… I’m not saying this well, am I?’

‘I could send him to…’ she mused. (Note no space before the quotation mark and the ellipsis



  • Write centuries, street names or locations in full

  • Note the spelling of churches; some may abbreviate to St, while some may spell Saint in full. The abbreviation St carries no period

  • Write percent in full for general expressions, but use % when citing statistics:

The hotel was fifty-percent full

At least 90% of the townspeople were afflicted

  • Avoid using # or & unless they appear in Twitter tags or company names

  • In general, do not use periods between abbreviations (RCMP not R.C.M.P.) Exceptions are:

        Geographical abbreviations: (P.E.I., U.K., etc.)

        Lower-case abbreviations (a.m., e.g., i.e., etc.)

  • There is no period after Dr, Mr, Mrs, Ms, Prof, etc.

  • Academic degrees carry no punctuation: BA, MSc, PhD, etc.




  • Capitalize all proper nouns: Ottawa, Fred, Ozymandias, Confederation Park…

  • Titles are in lowercase unless used in reference to a specific person:

        ‘The detective inspector entered the room’

        ‘Detective Inspector Bracken entered the room’


Dates and Time Periods


  • Day, month, year in this order but with no commas: 17 July 1946

  • Write centuries out in full (e.g., the nineteenth century) not the 1800s

  • For decades use either the 1970s or ‘the seventies’

  • There is no need for an apostrophe between the numeral and the plural ‘s’: 1970s, not 1970’s (The apostrophe indicates either possessive or abbreviation. This is neither.)

  • ‘The seventies’ (for example) is only used in reference to the twentieth century, unless the context is made clear

  • Capitalize the seasons so as to harmonize with days and months (you don’t see this done very often, but it makes sense).



The hyphen is a symbol found on the standard keyboard, and at a lower level it is used for linking word pairs

  • The Canadian Oxford Dictionary is the best source for modern Canadian practice

  • Some expressions are hyphenated when used as nouns:

        The goal resulted from a beautiful set-up

  • These expressions are not hyphenated when used as verbs:

        He set up a beautiful goal

  • Hyphenate the following examples of compounds:

        ivy-covered, time-consuming (noun plus participle)

        well-earned, lesser-known (adverb plus participle)

        small-scale (adjective plus noun)

  • Do not hyphenate compounds where the adverb ends in ‘ly’:

        Hastily assembled, awkwardly phrased

  • A hyphen can be used to indicate negative numbers (-20°C)




  • Dashes are like hyphens, but used at a higher level

  • The En Dash is a medium-length hyphen found in the Insert menu. It is used with no spaces before or after. The En Dash links such items as dates and other numerals:

        From 1972–1986

        The final score was 45–37

  • The En Dash can be used to link associated terms:

        Following the old Ottawa–Arnprior railroad track

  • The Em Dash is a longer symbol found in the Insert menu. Em Dashes are only used in pairs to separate clauses not closely connected within a sentence:

‘She wondered at the time whether they should do this—she had been caught once before when her father opened the door without knocking—but she went ahead anyway.’

  • Note there are no spaces before or after the Em Dash

  • Clauses more closely connected within a sentence may be set off with commas:

‘She wondered at the time whether they should do this, because she had been caught once before, but she went ahead anyway.’ (‘Because’ is added here.)

  • In place of a single Em Dash use a semicolon:

        ‘He used a tire iron to pry the nail out; it was the only tool he had on hand.’



  • Italicize publications; names of ships, spacecraft, etc.; and works of art

  • Italicize non-English language words or abbreviations not commonly used

  • Passages set out from the rest of the text may be italicized, such as letters being quoted verbatim, or a character’s thoughts

  • In general, it is not necessary to italicize words in a text where context gives the reader the emphasis. Compare these two examples and choose:

        ‘She tried to open it, but the damned thing wouldn’t come out of the package’

        ‘She tried to open it, but the damned thing wouldn’t come out of the package’

  • Exclamations may be italicized, especially in speech, but avoid overuse




  • Spell out whole numbers below 10 and use figures for 10 and above

  • Spell out numbers when they appear in speech

  • Spell out numbers where they begin a sentence

  • Use all numerals where numbers below and above 10 appear in the same sentence:

            ‘He was 8 miles from home, and 15 from the cottage.’

  • Ages (8 years, 6 months) and metric quantities (42.2 km) are always numerals

  • For large numbers, use commas separating the triplets (1,000)

  • Millions and above are written as decimals: 52.3 million km (exact numbers are rendered in full)

  • Use ‘th’, etc. for ordinals. Superscript is acceptable: 27th, 32nd, 53rd, etc.

  • For money, add a period after the currency amount: $6,546.00 or $6,546.45

  • For times, add a colon after the hour: 8:00 a.m. or 8:35 p.m.


Compound Words


  • Using two words instead of compounding them into one is a common error:

‘Camp site,’ ‘fair ground’ and ‘web site’ are all common examples of words that should be compounded

Strangely enough: bedroom but dining room (don’t ask)

  • Mis-compounding should also be avoided:

        Not: ‘He waited awhile for his friends to arrive’

        But: ‘He waited a while for his friends to arrive’

General Usages


  • Be very sparing with ‘that’:

        ‘The party that he attended’ is better as ‘The party he attended’

  • Only use ‘which’ when following a comma (except as a question):

‘The old tree on the west side of the house, which had been used for tethering a washing line…’

  • Use ‘who’ and not ‘that’ for people. People are not objects:

        Not: ‘The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light’

        But: ‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light’

        (With apologies to the Jacobean translators of Isaiah)

  • There is no issue in starting sentences with ‘but’ or ‘and’; it depends largely upon the context

  • Ending a sentence with a preposition used to be frowned upon, but now that ‘rule’ can be dispensed with. But ‘Why did you bring that book I don’t want to be read to out of up for?’ might be frowned upon

  • Only use ‘however’ to start a sentence. ‘But,’ ‘although,’ etc. are better at mid-sentence

  • Opening a sentence with ‘so,’ ‘however,’ ‘therefore,’ etc. usually requires a comma. Rule of thumb: if you can remove the opening word and the sentence still makes sense, use the comma:

‘So, many of us decided to go for a drink.’

But: ‘So many of us decided to go for a drink that we needed two cars.’

  • ‘Whom’ is only used following a preposition (by, with, from, etc.):

‘For whom the bell tolls.’

But: ‘Who did you meet…?’

  • Avoid using parentheses in descriptive texts and in speech. In most cases the Em Dash serves the same purpose. If you feel it necessary to use parentheses, try rephrasing the sentence or breaking it

  • Bear in mind that rules of usage may be broken when reporting speech; we don’t write like we talk


Further Reading


  • Grammar Rules, Craig Shrives (London: Kyle Books, 2011)

  • The Elements of Style, William Strunk and E.B. White (4th edition, 2000)

  • The Canadian Style: A Guide to Writing and Editing:

            Search: Termium

Thank you and Good Luck!

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