Writing for digital experiences isn’t the same as writing an essay for The New York Times. Use punctuation to communicate as clearly and effectively as possible.

In product, that often means omitting punctuation. In marketing, it means using it for rhetorical effect. Whatever your role, adhering to rules about punctuation helps us maintain quality and consistency for our customers.

Acronyms and abbreviationsColonsFootnotesQuotation marks
AmpersandsCommasParenthesesSemicolons
ApostrophesDashes and hyphensPeriodsSlashes
AsterisksEllipsesPipeTrademarks
BracketsExclamation pointsQuestion marks

 

 

 
Acronyms and abbreviations


In the first mention, spell it out and include the acronym in parentheses—unless it’s commonly known, like IRS, ZIP code, EIN, PIN. For plurals, use a lowercase “s” without an apostrophe. Use standard abbreviations; don’t just truncate words.

In general, avoid abbreviations unless they’re in address details (Apt., Ste., or Bldg.). Include the period of an abbreviation when using a colon. Don’t use Latin abbreviations (e.g., i.e.). For abbreviations in column headers, use a period at the end of the abbreviation.

Note that special rules apply to the abbreviation for United States. In headlines, it’s US (this applies to slide titles, too). In text body, it’s U.S.

Do
Your Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a 9-digit number issued by the IRS. You can edit or change your EIN from the Company identification tab if you need to.

SLAs

1111 Bell Ave., Apt. C

Enter invoice no.:

Ref. no.

Attn.

 
Ampersands


Use ampersands sparingly in place of the word “and” to reference two related subjects. Keep ampersands in company names, titles, and other proper nouns. Ampersands are also OK where space is limited and you can’t spell out “and” (like in tweets). But keep in mind that the subjects must be related, and ampersands create issues for machine translation. Don’t use “+” to mean “and”, unless you’re referring to a partnership (like QuickBooks + Square).

Do
QuickBooks Accounting & InvoicePayments & Payroll

QuickBooks + Amex

QuickBooks + Square

@BradSmith & @johndoerr to honor Bill Campbell at Fortune #BrainstormTech

QuickBooks Learn & Support Home

Voice & Tone

PG&E

Distilled Art & Design

Don’t
QuickBooks Accounting + Invoice

 
Apostrophes


Use apostrophes to form contractions, possessives, and—in rare cases—plurals. If it sounds awkward, you can always try rewriting it to avoid the apostrophe.

For joint possession, you only need a single apostrophe. Including apostrophes for each possessor means they each have their own individual thing.

Using everyday contractions is a good thing. It helps reinforce the feeling that we’re having a conversation with our customers. Check here for guidance on using everyday contractions.

Do
Let’s

They’re

You’ll

It’s

Do’s and don’ts

Yes’s and no’s

CPA’s and PhD’s

your business’s growth

Phyllis’s first foray into payments

our customers’ feelings

the growth of your business

the first time Phyllis took a job in payments

how our customers feel

Jack and Jill’s concept pitch moved the audience to tears.

Jack’s and Jill’s teams support two completely different business functions.

 
Asterisks


An asterisk flags a corresponding comment on the bottom of the page. As a general rule, asterisks slow web readers down. You’re interrupting their train of thought and asking them to hunt for secondary information. When possible, avoid them.

If you need to cite legalese, use an asterisk as a footnote symbol if it’s the only one on the page. For more than one, use footnote numbers (this should be in PDFs only, not web or UI). The asterisk goes before a dash, but after every other punctuation mark.

Do not put the asterisk in the middle of a sentence. Put it at the end. And never use multiple asterisks in one sentence.

Do
Save up to 50%—sale ends Friday.*

Subscribers identify an average $3,809 in potential tax savings a year.*

 
Brackets


We rarely use angle brackets < >. Use a right angle bracket > for steps that point to specific navigation elements.

Use square brackets [ ] to insert text inside quotes. They can be used for clarifying unstable pronouns, translation, indicating a change in capitalization, censoring objectionable content, or a parenthetical within a parenthetical.

Do
Choose b>Taxes > Payroll Tax

“We’re huge fans of this [point of sale] system because it integrates with QuickBooks.”

 
Colons


It’s OK to use a colon when giving examples, if it helps make the copy easier to read.

Use a colon to introduce a list when the introductory text is a complete sentence.

In general, don’t use colons in headlines and subheads (even when you’re introducing a list). If you feel like you need a colon in a heading, see if there’s space for a subheading instead.

When using an abbreviation with a colon, include the period.

If the phrase after a colon is a dependent clause, don’t capitalize the first letter after the colon.

Example:
To help track your business, import your information: customers, vendors, chart of accounts, and products and services.

If the phrase after a colon is an independent clause, capitalize the first letter after the colon.

Example:
All bank and credit accounts don’t automatically update nightly: Check with your financial institution.

In this example, it’s probably even better to use a period. This helps us keep the copy conversational and simple.

Example:
All bank and credit accounts don’t automatically update nightly. Check with your financial institution.

Do
Add the sales tax components that make up the combined rate: component names, agencies, and percentages.
Do
Here’s what your accountant needs to do your taxes:

  • Financial statements
  • A list of capital asset activity
  • A vehicle log
  • A summary of home-office expenses
  • Form 1098 for mortgage interest and property taxes
Do
Enter invoice no.:
Don’t
The four main sections in your chart of accounts:

  • assets
  • liabilities
  • income
  • expenses
Don’t
Enter invoice no:

 
Commas


We love the Oxford or serial comma, so we always include it before the conjunction in a series of three or more.

Compound sentences tend to be longer and add a layer of complexity. Don’t overdo them. With compound sentences, we separate the two main clauses with a comma and a coordinating conjunction.

Loosen that tie and kick off your shoes—we use “then” as a coordinating conjunction (even though technically it’s not) when it makes the sentence a quicker read.

We don’t use a comma with a single subject and two verbs because it creates an awkward pause and just looks weird.

After a salutation, use a comma. Example: Hello, Tom

But if the salutation is a simple “Hi,” omit the comma. Example: Hi Tom

Do
Track your income, pay bills, or run payroll.

Get sample code, download SDKs, and try the API Explorer.

Our categorization is good, but it’s not always perfect.

Go to the store, then go to the bank.

You can create purchase orders and adjust inventory items.

QuickBooks can’t create PDF files or import GIF files.

Hello, Tom

Hi Tom

Don’t
Include your name, and your phone numberGet sample code, download SDKs and try the API Explorer.

You can create purchase orders to get started, and adjust inventory items later.

QuickBooks can’t create PDF files, or import GIF files

Hello Tom

Hi, Tom

 
Dashes and hyphens


Dashes and hyphens aren’t the same thing. A hyphen makes compound words. An en dash (the shorter dash) expresses a range of values (times, years, dollar amounts). And an em dash creates an interruption in a sentence like a semicolon, but with flair (we’re partial).

Don’t include a space on either side of a hyphen or dash. Use a hyphen if you’re using the number with the unit of measure as an adjective. Don’t use a hyphen when writing terms like “Sign in” unless they’re an adjective describing a noun that follows. Never use a hyphen for verbs like “set up” when the noun version (setup) is a single word.

Compound adjectives can negatively impact readability, so we should use them sparingly and stick to ones that are commonly used or familiar.

 

Hyphen:

Run in-depth sales reports.

Get one-on-one help from a tax expert.

Help clients understand payroll details with pre-configured reports.

I’m reading nineteenth-century novels in the early twentieth century.

You can review your taxes on a 12-week schedule.

 

En dash:

$500–$800

7:00–9:00 pm

2004–2016

 

Em dash:

Sit back and learn—see our video.

To estimate quarterly tax payments, you need a projection—an educated guess—of yearly profit.

—Mike Brown

 

(Keyboard equivalent: option+shift+hyphen, or in MS Word, two hyphens no spaces will auto-adjust.)

 
Ellipses


Use an ellipsis (…) to indicate an omission in quoted text, to mask sensitive data, to convey action in the background (like loading), or to represent overflow text. Make sure there’s no space between the last letter and the first period. Use it sparingly and for these purposes. Don’t use it for dramatic effect or in place of commas.

Do
“It’s highly professional yet so easy to use…I’d be lost without it.”

Checking for updates…

Almost there…

Total checking (…1234)

Don’t
Click Customers > Enter Vehicle Mileage…

Profits you can picture…so you can plan for what’s next.

 
Exclamation points


Use in moderation. Remember, you’re shouting. Don’t follow it with a question mark or other punctuation (unless it’s part of a title or trademarked proper noun, but that’s definitely an edge case).

Do
Great! Let’s start by getting to know you.

Quarterly and year-end tax relief is here!

Yahoo!, Google, and Apple

Don’t
Can you believe it?!

 
Footnotes


Like asterisks, footnotes slow web readers down. You’re interrupting their train of thought and asking them to hunt for secondary information. When possible, avoid them. To use them, insert a number formatted in superscript at the end of the sentence. Corresponding footnotes live at the bottom of the page.

If you need to cite legalese, use footnotes when you’re citing more than one thing on the page. Don’t put the footnote mid-sentence. Put it at the end instead. And don’t use multiple footnotes in one sentence.

Do
The #1 iPad POS—QuickBooks Point of Sale.¹Clear business data, anytime.²

 

Do
  1. Revel Systems was ranked #1 in Top Ten Reviews: http://pos-systems-review.toptenreviews.com/ipad/revel-systems-review.html
  2.  Access subject to Internet provider availability.

 
Parentheses


Use parentheses in pairs to provide examples, add an aside, or introduce an abbreviation. Parenthetical text can be a word, a fragment, or multiple sentences. Your sentence should make sense when you read it out loud without the parenthetical text. If a sentence ends with a parenthetical that’s only part of a larger sentence, the period goes outside the closing parenthesis. If the parenthetical itself is a whole sentence, the period goes inside the parenthesis.

Do
Federal exempt forms (like IRS 501c3 forms) don’t apply to state sales tax.

Protect your account by turning on multifactor authentication (MFA).

A balance sheet report calculates how much your business is worth (your business’s equity) by subtracting all the money your company owes (liabilities) from everything it owns (assets).

Fill out the Reconcile Statement window. (If you don’t see the Reconcile Statement window, you or another user may have already started to reconcile that account.)

 
Periods


Use periods to end a sentence. Use a period at the end of an abbreviation and forgo the second period if the sentence ends with an abbreviation.

Limit use of periods in headlines, email subjects, or preheaders.

Headlines should be crisp and digestible. Adding periods to short headlines may slow the reader as she moves down the page. Use periods if you’re going for impact or if your headline is clearly a full and complete sentence.

Use exclamations and question marks sparingly in headlines. In cases where part of the headline/subject uses an exclamation, use a period for the remaining parts to stay consistent. Place one space after periods, not two.

 

 

Do
QuickBooks knows how to write a full sentence. (Regular sentence)

Congratulations! You’re approved.
(Adjacent to punctuation)

Make organization easy
(Headline)

Get it done. Get paid.
(Impact Headline)

View your latest report (Subject)

Don’t
QuickBooks knows how to write a full sentence

Congratulations! You’re approved
(Adjacent to punctuation)

Make organization easy!!
(Headline)

Track miles.
(Headline)

Check out your business sales. (Preheader)

 
Pipe


Use a pipe | (vertical bar) in title tags to separate elements of the title. Search engines will highlight keywords that you include in those tags in the results if someone uses those keywords to search. Social media and other external sites often use the title tag of a page as its link anchor text.

Do
Primary Keyword—Secondary Keyword | Brand Name

 
Question marks


Use a question mark at the end of a direct question. Don’t use more than one together (???) or pair it with an exclamation point (?!).

Do
How do you want to enter your income?

Did we get this right?

 
Quotation marks


Use quotation marks for spoken words or short quoted phrases. Put commas and periods inside closing quotation marks. Other punctuation marks (colons, semicolons, question marks, exclamation points) go outside closing quotation marks, unless it’s part of the quote.

Do
“Just sorted four months of transactions in 20 minutes.”“It’s a huge efficiency,” he said, “that also saves us money each month.”

I’m not sure we need “each month”—should we just end with “saves us money”?

 
Semicolons


Semicolons are wonderful, but they don’t really belong in web or product content. They’re a bit too proper and formal. Avoid them. Instead, separate independent clauses with a period or with conjunctions like “and,” “or,” “but,” and “so.”

Do
Let’s say you’re creating an invoice. Go to Create (+) Invoice
Don’t
Let’s say you’re creating an invoice; go to Create (+) Invoice.

 
Slashes


Use slashes when necessary to mean “per,” “and,” or “or.” Slashes can also form certain abbreviations or indicate two-year spans.

Do
$10/monthContact us for 24/7 support.

Enter an item in the Product/Service field.

℅ (care of), P/E (price-to-earnings ratio), w/ (with)

2015/2016 fiscal year

 
Trademarks


TM is the symbol for “trademark” and is used on product or feature names and logos and serves as a legal “notice” to others that we claim the name as our own, even if/when it is not formally registered with the government.

SM is the symbol for “service mark,” which is essentially the same as a trademark except that it’s the symbol used on service names. It also serves to notify others that we claim a particular name or design as exclusively ours, even if it’s not formally registered with the government.

A word or name can often serve two or three functions:

  • Intuit, Inc.: (Intuit as a trade name)
  • Intuit Financial Supplies: (Intuit as a trademark)
  • Intuit Online Payroll: (Intuit as a service mark)

 

Symbol Placement Cheat Sheet for Intuit’s Trademarks


Here
are some of our most frequently used offering names and their appropriate trademark symbols. For a complete list of all of Intuit’s trademarks and service marks, check out the Master List of Intuit Trademarks.

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