Most of what follows is from the Chicago Manual of Style.  When there is more than one style that is acceptable, we have clarified our preference.  This also is an attempt to move toward simplifying our punctuation while maintaining the integrity of English grammar.



  • Rarely use abbreviations except in the traditional form, such as Mr., Mrs., Dr., Inc., Ltd., or proper name initials.
  • Rather than using i.e. or etc., use for example or and so forth.
  • If acronyms (words formed by first or first few letters of words in a long name of an organization) or initials are used in text, they must first be introduced in parenthesis following the spelled-out name.  (The Verde Canyon Railroad (VCRR) is a member of the Society of Railroad Engineers (SRE).  The VCRR publishes the monthly newsletter for the SRE.) Letters in acronyms and abbreviations will not be separated by periods.
  • Postal addresses should be spelled out in text; abbreviated in addresses.
  • Either U.S. or US is acceptable as an adjective, but not as a noun.  VCRR will always use U.S..
  • Always spell out the following eight states: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas, and Utah.  The other states should be abbreviated.
  • The abbreviations A.M. and P.M. are generally capitalized, but VCRR will use the a.m. and p.m. style.  If the time abbreviation ends a sentence, a period must follow the a.m. or p.m. (.)
  • The abbreviations A.D. or B.C. following dates will be capitalized.  Double dot at the end of the A.D. or B.C.(.) at the end of a sentence.
  • The initials m.p.h. will accompany when we are speaking of miles per hour.


  • Used to show omission of numbers (Christmas ’98)
  • Imitate certain patterns of speech (finger lickin’ good).  The apostrophe replaces one or more missing letters.
  • To form contractions (I’m, we’ve, can’t, they’ll).  The apostrophe replaces either one or more letters (I am, we have, can not, they will).
  • Do not use apostrophes with numbers and letters that form plurals

(1020s, ABCs).  This is a matter of taste according to several doctrines.

  • To form the possessive of a plural noun, add an apostrophe without another letter “s” (grandparents’).
  • When there are two or more words as a unit, show joint possession in just the last word (John and Pedro’s car).
  • It’s is a contraction and means it is or it has.  Its is the possessive form of it.  (The engine was removed from the rest of its consist.)

Brackets – Not to be confused with parenthesis

Used to enclose words and phrases independent of the sentence that is not written by the author.   (They arrived in Perkinsville and in the following year [1932] opened the foundry across the track.)


Capitalization may follow three forms: full caps, heading caps, or sentence caps.  A full cap capitalizes every character of every word.  These are used only in major headings.  Headline or heading caps capitalize the first character of each word, subject to the considerations below.

  • Capitalize all proper names.
  • Capitalize the first word of a quoted sentence.  (Robin said, “We will not be running a train today.”)
  • In titles capitalize the first word, the last word and all words in between except articles (a, an, the), prepositions under five letters (in, of, to), and coordinating conjunctions (and, but).
  • When using the word canyon, if it applies to dirt it is not capitalized.  If it applies to the Verde Canyon through which the train passes, it is capitalized.  The same applies to the word Railroad or railroad.  When applied to the structure, it is railroad.  When it is relative to the proper name, it is Railroad.  The same is true when using the word Valley in place of Verde Valley. Capitalize words derived from proper nouns which become common nouns
  • Capitalize family relations when used in place of a name.  (I forgot to tell you, Father, they are expecting you at 7 p.m.  My mother agreed to ride in coach.)
  • Capitalize the first word in each line of poetry.
  • Capitalize a person’s title when it precedes the name.  Do not capitalize when the title follows the name unless it follows the name on a signature line.  (Marketing Director Teresa Propeck said she will not go.  Teresa Propeck, marketing director, said she will not go.  Sincerely, Teresa Propeck, Marketing Director)
  • The abbreviations A.M. and P.M. are generally capitalized, but VCRR will use the a.m. and p.m. style.
  • Capitalize direct address, such as “Will you copy me on that, Director?”
  • Capitalize points of interest when they refer to specific regions.  (Southwest, Old West, the North)
  • Do not capitalize seasons.  Do not capitalize directions.
  • Capitalize days of the week, holidays and months of the year.
  • Do not capitalize the first word following a colon.
  • Capitalize common names of periods of time in history. (The Dot Com Era lasted far shorter than many people expected.)
  • Capitalize acronyms and do not use periods between words except S.O.B.. (PBS television; VCRR)
  • The abbreviation A.D. or B.C. following a date will be capitalized and utilize a period after each letter.
  • Miles per hour will not be capitalized, will not have spacing between initials and will have periods after each abbreviation (m.p.h.).
  • When a title precedes a name, it is capitalized.  When it follows a name, it is in lower case.


  • Use only when a series of related items follows (We have three services on our train: first-class, coach, and caboose.)
  • Do not capitalize the first word following a colon.
  • All salutations in letters shall be followed by a colon.  (Dear Jane:)
  • Colons shall be used denoting times only when there are minutes present (5 p.m. or 5:30 p.m.)
  • Colons are used with the restatement of an idea.  (The train was late: it was stuck at the crossing for over an hour.)


  • A subordinate clause is a sentence that cannot stand alone.  A subordinate clause has a subject and a verb, but it is dependent on something: a full sentence to explain something about the clause.
  • Put a comma before and, but, for, or, nor, so, and yet when they connect two independent clauses.
  • Separate three or more items in a series but not before the word and (She saw eagles, herons, ducks and bluebirds in the canyon.).  We are not using a serial comma.
  • Put a comma after an introductory word group of three or more words, including prepositional phrases, subordinate phrases and dependent clauses.  Use a comma with three or less words if you want the reader to intentionally pause.
  • Set off interrupters with pairs of commas, pairs of parentheses, or pairs of dashes (The caboose, red in color, left the depot on time.  The caboose (last car on the train) left the depot on time.  The caboose – constructed in 1927 – left the depot on time.)
  • Put commas around the name of a person or group spoken to.  (I hope, Robin, that the train will not be delayed today.)
  • Put commas around an expression that interrupts the flow of a sentence.  (We took longer on this leg of the journey, therefore, arriving late.)
  • When two or more adjectives each modify a noun separately, they are coordinate.  Commas replace the word and.  (The towering, sculptured, red rocks were mesmerizing.  The towering and sculptured and red rocks were mesmerizing.) When two or more adjectives do not modify the noun separately, they are cumulative.  (Three large gray herons swept across the river.) Coordinate adjectives require commas; cumulative adjectives do not.
  • Independent clauses are sentences and can stand alone.  Dependent clauses cannot stand alone and require a comma for connection.
  • Adverb clauses are set off by a comma when they introduce a sentence.  Commas are generally not used at the end of the sentence because it restricts the flow of the meaning.  When the adverbs too, also, and as well are used at the end of the sentence, do not separate them with a comma.
  • A comma is not used when a clause restricts the meaning of the word or it modifies and interrupts, (The lady who spoke is a doctor.  The lady, who is a doctor, spoke at the meeting.)
  • An appositive is a word or phrase that renames or identifies the noun or pronoun it sits next to.  When an appositive restricts the meaning of a noun, no punctuation is necessary.  (My friend Claire rode the train on Thursday.) When an appositive does not restrict the meaning, punctuation is used.  (Clair’s boyfriend, Jimmy Chang, rode the train on Friday.)
  • Do not use a comma after the title of Jr. or Sr. in a name used in a sentence.  Also omit using a comma after Roman numerals (I, III, IV, etc.) following names.
  • No comma after one month and one year (June 2007) or if it is inverted 9th June 2007.  Put a comma between the data and the year, between the day of the week and the date, and after the year when you give a full date. (Our anniversary is November 3, 2010, but we will celebrate it on Friday, June 6 this year.)

Commas and Prepositions

Prepositions include: about, above, according to, across, after, against, along, among, around, as, aside from, at, because of, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, between, beyond, by, concerning, despite, down, during, except  (for), excepting, for, from, in, in addition to, inside, in spite of, instead of, into, like, near, next to, of, off, on, onto, out, out of, outside, over, past, regarding, round, since, through, throughout, till, to, toward, under, underneath, unlike, until, up, upon, with, within, without

  • A prepositional phrase can not stand alone since it is not a complete sentence.  When it introduces a sentence, it is set off with a comma unless it is very short (under three words).
  • No punctuation is used when the prepositional phrase restricts the meaning of the sentence but is not introducing the sentence.  If the prepositional phrase does not restrict the meaning of the sentence, punctuation is used even when it interrupts or concludes the sentence.
  • If a sentence ends in a preposition sounds fine and makes sense, write the sentence.  However, it is always possible to reword the sentence to NOT end in a preposition, which is preferred.

Our exceptions:  In the 1960s a few scenes…. (no comma; less than three words); At Perkinsville the engines….(no comma after Perkinsville); etc.

Commas and Transitional Phrases

Some samples of transitional phrases include, but are not limited to the words: also, again, as well as, besides, coupled with, furthermore, in addition, likewise, moreover, similarly, accordingly, as a result, consequently, for this reason, for this purpose, hence, otherwise, so then, subsequently, therefore, thus, thereupon, wherefore, contrast, by the same token, conversely, instead, likewise, on one hand, on the other hand, on the contrary, rather, similarly, yet, but, however, still, nevertheless, in contrast, generally, in essence, in other words, namely, that is, that is to say, in short, in brief, as a rule, as usual, for the most part, ordinarily, chiefly, especially, for instance, in particular, namely, particularly, outside of, above all, by the way, as an illustration, as an example, in this case, in other words, namely, that is, that is to say, in short, at first

Transitional phrases, which are at the beginning of a sentence, always require a comma.  (First, you should get your ticket in the depot.  Yet, all of the bald eagles still come back yearly.  Nevertheless, many will be disappointed in the new fare.)

These same words, when used at the end of the sentence as an adverb, do not require a comma.


  • Used to denote a sudden change of thought.
  • Used to indicate a sudden break in the sentence.
  • Used in place of parenthesis.
  • Used as a replacement for the word to with reference to dates, sections, verses, etc.  (1923 – 1928)

Ellipses ( … )

  • Make sure there is a space before and after ellipses.  At the end of a sentence, use the period with a space and then three dots.
  • Three dots at the end of a paragraph indicate omission.
  • Three dots also may indicate the writer wants a hesitation to show he is concealing something he doesn’t want to share.
  • At the end of a sentence within a paragraph, use four dots.  The fourth usually indicates a period ending the sentence.  The other dots indicate there is an omission, pause or unfinished thought between sentences.

Exclamation Marks

Restraint should be exercised when using the exclamation punctuation mark in writing, for when it is used liberally it will lose its impact.  Use it only to indicate a strong emotional response, strong command, or contempt.


  • Use a hyphen to connect two or more words functioning together as an adjective before a noun.  (The Verde Canyon Railroad is a well-known tourist attraction.)  Generally, do not use hyphens when compounds follow the noun.  (The Verde Canyon Railroad, an Arizona tourist attraction, is well known.)
  • Do not use a hyphen with adverbs ending with ly.  (A slowly moving train blocked traffic.)
  • Hyphens are suspended in series.  (Do you prefer first-, coach-, or caboose-class tickets?)
  • Use a hyphen with the prefixes all-, ex-, and self- and with the suffix –elect.
  • Use a hyphen to avoid ambiguity such as recreation or re-creation.
  • Hyphenate all compound numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine.
  • Do not hyphenate compound ethnic groups.
  • Use hyphens when using made-up phrases.  (It was an out-of-body experience as we entered the Canyon in the state-of-the-art railroad car.  Top-tappin’, knee-slappin’)
  • Hyphenate compounds made up of nouns and prepositional phrases. (Mother-in-law; hand-in-hand; off-the-cuff)
  • Hyphenate compounds made up of prefixes joined to proper names.
  • (mid-September, anti-American, un-American)
  • Generally, hyphenate words with double vowels (co-owner; semi-independent)
  • The word mid is normally joined to another word without a hyphen unless the second element begins with a capital letter (midpoint vs. mid-May).
  • When an age spelled out is used as an adjective to define a noun or pronoun, it is hyphenated.  When it is an object, it is not hyphenated.  For example: Marian is 80 years old.  Marian is an 80-year-old lady.


Idioms are phrases that don’t mean what they literally say, but have meaning to native speakers.  For example, the phrase under the weather is known by most native English speakers to mean someone isn’t feeling well.  Try to curb using idioms since our press releases reach world-wide audiences.


  • The word e-mail or email is correct.  We just need to be consistent.  VCRR will use the word email.
  • Web page and Web site will be the choice of VCRR.  However, when World Wide Web is used as www it will not be capitalized.  The word Internet also is a proper noun and will be capitalized.
  • Most other Web terms are spelled lowercased and without a hyphen: webcam, webcast, webmail, etc.
  • Italicize Web sites throughout documents.  Do not underline or color.
  • In publications which are not on the Web, do not underline or color Web sites and email addresses.  Italicize them and do not set them up as a hyperlink.  Hyperlink only publications to be used on the Web.


  • Emphasize a keyword or phrase in italics.
  • Titles of books, names of periodicals, and Web sites should be italicized.  Titles of articles or chapters should be in quotation marks.
  • Foreign terms should be italicized unless incorporated into the English language.
  • Words and letters that are referred to as words or letters are set in italics.  For example, “the term American Indian is inclusive of over 500 ethnic communities.”


  • Spell out numbers that begin a sentence or consider rewriting to place large numbers in another location within the sentence.
  • Spell numbers nine and under, use figures for 10 and over.  There is much discrepancy over this, and it is up to the publication to determine the structure.  If there are both numbers is one sentence, consider consistency by spelling all numbers or using just symbols, but consistency in the entire publication must be adhered.
  • Ages will follow the same rule.  (She is two years old.  The five-year-old boy rode the caboose without permission.)  Height will be referred in numbers.  (He is 5 feet 6 inches tall.  He is a 5-foot-6-inch tall man.)  Weight and measurements will adhere to the nine and under and 10 and over rule.
  • Spell out simple fractions and use hyphens with them. (One-half of the people riding the train are children.)  Mixed fractions also should be spelled out.  (Five and one-half of the cars are full.)
  • Stay consistent with large numbers and dollar signs. (To replace the track bed would cost between $5 hundred-thousand and $5 million, not $500,000 and $5 million.)
  • Do not mix spelling numbers with symbols, for example, $5 or five dollars.
  • With numbers that have decimal points, use a comma only when the number has five or more digits before the decimal point.  When writing out such numbers, use the comma where it would appear in the figure format. ($15,768.11: Fifteen thousand, seven hundred sixty-eight dollars and eleven cents. $1054.21: One thousand fifty-four dollars and twenty-one cents.)
  • Time of day always uses numbers.
  • Percentages are spelled out with the number in parentheses. (Forty-two percent (42%) of the population is under age.)
  • No comma after one month and one year (June 2007) or if it is inverted 9th June 2007.  Put a comma between the data and the year, between the day of the week and the date, and after the year when you give a full date. (Our anniversary is November 3, 2010, but we will celebrate it on Friday, June 6 this year.)
  • Decades will be written with numbers.  Centuries are written with lower case letters.
  • Use the words noon and midnight instead of 12:00 A.M. or P.M.
  • Hyphenate all compound numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine.


Use consistency with verbs and/or nouns in sequence.  (Incorrect: Ride the train, visit the museum, and consider going to the Blazin’ M.  Correct: Ride the train, visit the museum, and see the Blazin’ M.)   One way to achieve consistency is to start each phrase with a verb.


  • Used to enclose words not directly relevant to the main topic of the sentence but too important to omit.  (Optimistic people (and I count myself among them) produce positive results.)
  • Used to add examples.  (The new caboose has many attributes (leather seats, appetizers, Champagne, and open-air porches) that will enhance the ride through the Verde Canyon.)

Quotation Marks

  • Periods and commas are always inside quotation marks.
  • Semi-colons and colons are always outside the quotation mark.
  • Question marks (?) and exclamation points (!) are determined by how it is used in the sentence.
  • Quotation marks are used to enclose a translation of a non-English term in your text.  (The word Sinagua ends with the word agua meaning “water.”)
  • Do NOT use quotation marks for emphasis unless it is to emphasize something ironic.
  • Quotation marks inside quotations require a single mark (‘) rather than a double.
  • Titles of books, names of periodicals, and Web sites should be italicized.  Titles of articles or chapters should be in quotation marks.

Semi Colons

  • A semi colon separates two main clauses which would have otherwise been separated by using a conjunction such as and or but.  (It was the first of April; all of the cactuses were in bloom.)
  • Semi colons sometimes separate items in a series when the items are long and contain commas.  (The deli serves bacon and eggs; pancakes and syrup; biscuits and gravy; and pastries.)
  • Semi colons can separate two main clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction when the clauses are long or contain commas.  (The train ride will include a series of events; for example, visiting the tunnel, touring Indian ruins and entering a 680-foot tunnel.)


Some of the following words which we use on a regular basis may be used with or without hyphens or punctuation as shown.  VCRR will adhere to the following to create consistency.

  • Manmade
  • Open-air viewing cars
  • Longest-running nature show
  • It’s not the destination, it’s the journey
  • Dave Durbano
  • Halfway
  • Chuckwagon and chuckwagon-style
  • All-you-can-eat barbecue
  • Theatre
  • 680-foot (The 680-foot tunnel); 680 feet (The tunnel is 680 feet long.)
  • Four-hour train ride
  • 40-mile train ride; 20-mile roundtrip; trip is 40 miles; roundtrip is 20 miles
  • The train ride is four hours long.
  • First-class
  • Coach-class
  • High-back seats
  • Climate-controlled
  • Clickety-clack
  • Year-round
  • Chocolate Lovers’ Festival
  • Grandparents’ Day
  • American bald eagle
  • Great Blue Heron
  • S.O.B. bridge
  • Cactuses rather than cacti
  • Eco-journey and eco-tourists
  • Wine-tasting train
  • Train exclusively for wine tasting following noun
  • Santa Fe/Burlington Northern Railroad
  • Two of 12 remaining

Style Guide

  • Captions: When appropriate to photos, copy must read clockwise from lower left.
  • Captions should either be written in italics or a different text than body.
  • Captions should not have periods because most are incomplete sentences.
  • No paragraph should end with a “widow” or single word printed on the

last line.

  • Text should line up horizontally on single and double pages, from column to column.
  • VCRR will continue to use one space after the conclusion of a sentence.
  • Do not indent the first paragraph of an article.
  • Telephone numbers should be listed as XXX-XXX-XXXX.  A number one (1) is not necessary preceding telephone numbers, including our 800 number.
  • Hyphenated words should never go from one page to another.
  • If necessary, more than one sentence in a paragraph should flow from one column to another and one page to another.
  • All salutations in letters shall be followed by a colon.  (Dear Jane:)
  • When proofing, make sure when changing a word, that all other words in the sentence are fluid.
  • Postal addresses should be spelled out in text; abbreviated in addresses.
  • The abbreviations A.M. and P.M. are generally capitalized, but VCRR will use the a.m. and p.m. style.  If the time abbreviation ends a sentence, a period must follow the a.m. or p.m. (.)


  • Cannot or can not are both acceptable.
  • Can implies ability; may implies permission or uncertainty.
  • Different from is preferred to different than.
  • As it applies to us, the word data will be used as singular and plural.
  • Farther refers to physical distance.  Further refers to quantity, time, or degree.
  • Everybody and everyone are singular pronouns requiring is not are verbs.  The words are interchangeable.
  • Overused intensifiers include: absolutely, incredibly, fantastically, really, reason is because.  Modify their use.
  • The word regards should never be used.  It should be in regard to.
  • The words total, majority, and number may be plural or singular.  A general rule is if the word is preceded by the, it is singular, and if it is preceded by a, it is plural.
  • On/upon and in/into are equally interchangeable.
  • Two is a number, to shows direction and is a preposition, and too means ‘also.’
  • Use the word through rather than thru.
  • Use who in place of he or she; use whom in place of him or her.
  • Complimentary is flattering, admiring, approving, free, gratis; complementary is corresponding, matching, opposite, balancing or paired.
  • When the word also is used in a sentence, it will always appear before the adverb and verb.  (She also will be at the party.  The people riding the train also will visit the Blazin’ M.)


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