Appendix A. unfoldingWord Book Package Style Sheet¶
Use abbreviations when writing or editing unfoldingWord resources only for the names of other resources, for example, ULT, UST.
“As if” and “as though” clauses¶
If an “as if” or “as though” clause describes something that is most likely not true, use the subjunctive mood in the clause. If the clause indicates something that is a more likely possibility, use the indicative mood in the same tense as in the introductory clause that precedes the “as if” or “as though” clause.
- “She acts as if she hates me.” This conveys that the way she acts suggests that she really does hate me.
- “She acts as if she hated me.” This presents her hating me as a more remote possibility. It suggests that I have reason to believe that she actually does not hate me.
Source of examples: The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language
- “In Exodus 7:14, Yahweh speaks of Pharaoh’s heart as if it were heavy.” The subjunctive is appropriate because Yahweh is using an idiom. Pharaoh’s heart is not actually heavy.
- “In Exodus 7:14, Yahweh speaks of Pharaoh’s heart as if it is heavy.” This would suggest that his heart really being heavy is a likely possibility that Yahweh’s statement is disclosing.
However, if something is described that would be the case if an unlikely thing were true, then that thing is described in the indicative, because once the unlikely possibility is granted, then what follows from it is considered likely.
- “James is speaking of God’s word figuratively as if it had been (subjunctive) planted and was (indicative) growing inside of believers.”
Once the premise is granted that the word has been planted, then it is likely that the word is growing inside believers.
- “Suppose a thief were (subjunctive) going to rob a house, and suppose the owner of the house knew (subjunctive) when the thief was (indicative) coming.”
Once the premise is granted that a thief is going to rob a house, then it is likely (certain, in fact) that the thief is going to come at a specific time. But it is a further premise that the house owner knows what time this will be.
Use either a comma or a colon after an attribution that identifies the speaker or writer of a direct quotation.
- Comma (Luke 8:46): Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I know power has gone out from me.”
- Colon (Luke 13:6): Then he spoke this parable: “Someone had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it but did not find any.
Use an en-dash, not a hyphen, to indicate a verse range. (See Numbers: Range)
- Correct: Genesis 1:1–5; Genesis 1:1–2:3
- Incorrect: Genesis 1:1-5; Genesis 1:1-2:3
If you cite consecutive verses separately because each one supports a point you want to make, list them separately with a comma but no space in between.
- Correct: The people described in the Beatitudes are sometimes blessed by being associated with God (Matthew 5:8,9)
- Incorrect: The people described in the Beatitudes are sometimes blessed by being associated with God (Matthew 5:8–9)
If you want to specify the version you are citing, you may use the common abbreviation for it. However, it may be helpful to write out the full name of the version in the first instance. It may also be helpful to say in that instance that you will be quoting from this version unless otherwise noted, in which case you do not need to repeat the version abbreviation every time.
Do not place a comma between the book, chapter, and verse reference and the version abbreviation, and do not put the version abbreviation in parentheses. For a citation within the text:
- Correct: In Job 4:8 ULT, “those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap it,” the metaphor that Eliphaz uses can be clearly seen.
- Incorrect: In Job 4:8, ULT, “those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap it,” the metaphor that Eliphaz uses can be clearly seen.
- Incorrect: In Job 4:8 (ULT), “those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap it,” the metaphor that Eliphaz uses can be clearly seen.
You may also make a citation parenthetically. The period at the end of a sentence should follow the citation.
- Correct: Eliphaz tells Job that “those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap it” (Job 4:8 ULT).
- Incorrect: Eliphaz tells Job that “those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap it.” (Job 4:8 ULT)
Similarly, the comma at the end of a clause should follow the citation.
- Correct: Eliphaz tells Job that “those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap it” (Job 4:8 ULT), but Job is not swayed by this argument.
- Incorrect: Eliphaz tells Job that “those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap it,” (Job 4:8 ULT) but Job is not swayed by this argument.
Even if you do not quote an entire verse, you can simply give the verse number as the reference. For instance, “For God so loved the world that He gave” (John 3:16). Only in books such as Bible studies, where segments are analyzed separately, will there likely be a need for greater clarification. Lowercase letters can be used for that purpose.
There is no generally agreed-upon system for using lowercase letters to indicate parts of verses. However, here is one helpful system recommended by editing coach Kathy Ide (http://kathyide.com/)
- If your quotation includes the beginning of the verse but not the end, you can identify it with “a” to indicate that it consists of some first portion of the verse. “For God so loved the world that He gave” (John 3:16a).
- If your quotation begins after the start of the verse, you can identify it with “b” to indicate that it consists of some second portion of the verse that may or may not include the end of the verse. Example: We have his promise that “whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16b).
- If your quotation consists of two non-consecutive portions of a verse, if the first portion contains the beginning of the verse, you can identify that portion with “a” and the next portion with “c,” showing that material has been omitted in between. Example: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son,” and that is how we can “have eternal life” (John 3:16a,c).
- If your quotation consists of two non-consecutive portions of a verse, if the first portion does not contain the beginning of the verse, you can identify that portion with “b” and the next portion with “d,” showing that material has been omitted in between. Example: God “gave his only begotten Son,” and anyone who “believes in him will not perish” (John 3:16b,d).
- This system can be adapted to meet other circumstances.
Quotations of non-consecutive verses¶
Another recommendation from Kathy Ide: Suppose you quoted 1 Chronicles 24:7–8, did not quote verses 9–17, but then quoted verse 18. You could cite the full passage’s beginning and ending verses: 1 Chronicles 24:7–18. But it would be clearer and more specific if you cited just the verses being quoted (1 Chronicles 24:7–8,18).
Citing from only one Bible version¶
If you cite from the same Bible version throughout your text, you can note this when you make your first citation and then not specify the version in subsequent citations.
- First citation: Luke refers to Herod the Great as “Herod, king of Judea” (Luke 1:5 ULT; all subsequent citations are from this version).
- Subsequent citation: Luke calls his son Herod Antipas “tetrarch of Galilee” (Luke 3:1).
Square brackets [ ] have a number of uses.
They are used to mark material in a Bible translation that was most likely not in the original version of a biblical book.
- 35 There will be two women grinding together; the one will be taken, and the other will be left. [36 There will be two men in the field; the one will be taken, and the other will be left.]
Square brackets are also used to mark editorial asides or additions within material.
- “In Buenos Aires, Cardinal Bergoglio [later Pope Francis] lived in a small apartment, cooked his own meals, and took public transportation.”
Square brackets also enclose material that is parenthetical within parentheses.
- “But you, Yahweh, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts up my head” (Psalm 3:3 [Heb. v. 4])
- unfoldingWord® (as our organization name) – Should always be lowercase u and uppercase W
- unfoldingWord® Hebrew Bible (UHB)
- unfoldingWord® Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon (UHAL)
- unfoldingWord® Hebrew Grammar (UHG)
- unfoldingWord® Aramaic Grammar (UAG)
- unfoldingWord® Greek Grammar (UGG)
- unfoldingWord® Greek New Testament (UGNT)
- unfoldingWord® Greek Lexicon (UGL)
- unfoldingWord® Grammatical Concepts (UGC)
- unfoldingWord® Open Bible Stories (OBS)
- unfoldingWord® Open Bible Stories Study Notes
- unfoldingWord® Open Bible Stories Study Questions
- unfoldingWord® Open Bible Stories Translation Notes
- unfoldingWord® Open Bible Stories Translation Questions
- unfoldingWord® Literal Text (ULT)
- unfoldingWord® Simplified Text (UST)
- unfoldingWord® Translation Notes (UTN) Note: UTN are diifferent than SIL “Translator’s Notes”
- unfoldingWord® Translation Words (UTW)
- unfoldingWord® Translation Academy (UTA)
- unfoldingWord® Translation Questions (UTQ)
- Do not use this way:
- Unfoldingword | unfoldingword | UnfoldingWord
To introduce a bulleted list, use either a complete sentence or a phrase that ends with a preposition or a verb, followed by a colon. If bullets are followed by complete sentences, use initial capitals and periods. If bullets are followed by incomplete sentences, do not use capitals or periods.
Here is what I want you to do:
- Clean up your room.
- Mow the lawn.
- Take out the trash.
I want you to:
- Clean up your room.
- Mow the lawn.
- Take out the trash.
You should complete:
- cleaning up your room
- mowing the lawn
- taking out the trash
After a Bullet¶
After a Colon¶
Capitalize the first word after a colon only if it the start of a complete sentence.
After a Dash¶
Capitalize the first word after a dash only when the word always has to be capitalized, for example, if it is a proper noun. Do not capitalize the first word of an independent clause (which could be a complete sentence of its own) that follows a dash, since it is being incorporated into the sentence that begins before the dash.
Capitalize words such as “law” and “king” when they are used within titles: “King David,” “the Book of the Law.” Do not capitalize such words when they are common nouns: “the law of Moses,” “the king of Israel.”
The term “word” is capitalized when it means the Bible, God’s Word. It is also capitalized when it means Jesus, the living Word. “The Word became flesh and lived among us” (John 1:14).
The following represents correct usage: “God himself took great care with his word. God created the world by his word, inspired the Scriptures as his Word, and sent Jesus to earth as the Living Word.” (Matt L.)
The words “Scripture” and “Scriptures” are also capitalized when they refer to the whole Bible, but not when they refer to individual passages or verses.
In documents you create that are divided into chapters, identify the chapters sequentially with ascending consecutive numbers. Use digits for the numbers in chapter titles, even for the numbers one through ten. (This is an exception to the general rule about numbers.) You may also give the chapters a title. Example:
A Short History of Bible Translation
A colon introduces an element or a series of elements that illustrates or amplifies what precedes the colon. Between independent clauses, a colon functions much like a semicolon, although it more strongly emphasizes sequence. A colon may be used instead of a period to introduce a series of related sentences.
What precedes the colon must be a complete sentence, not a sentence fragment. For example, for a list within a sentence, there must be a complete sentence in front of the colon.
- I like my meals very bland: no salt, no pepper, no vinegar, no sweeteners.
A colon is normally used after “as follows,” “the following,” and similar expressions. A colon is not normally used after “namely,” “for example,” and similar expressions. A colon is also not used before a series that is introduced by a verb or a preposition.
- I like bland meals that have no salt, no pepper, no vinegar, no sweeteners.
Capitalize the first word after a colon only if it is the start of a complete sentence. When a colon is used within a sentence (as in the first example), the first word following the colon is lowercase unless it is a proper noun. When a colon introduces two or more sentences or when it introduces a direct quotation, the first word following the colon is capitalized.
Ordinarily a comma follows an adverbial phrase that comes at the beginning of a sentence.
- After he went out from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to oppose him fiercely
However, when the phrase is short (five words or less is a guideline), the comma may be omitted.
- One day Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him.
- On another day Jesus got into a boat with his disciples.
It may be important for clarity to use or omit a comma.
- In Luke 23:56 ULT, the comma after “Sabbath” is omitted for clarity: “And on the Sabbath they rested, according to the commandment.” The point is that they rested on the Sabbath as commanded, not that they rested as commanded, and that they did so on the Sabbath. That could be taken as the meaning if the punctuation were, “And on the Sabbath, they rested, according to the commandment.”
- Luke 7:39 describes what a Pharisee thought when a woman anointed Jesus with perfume. If the next verse began, “And answering Jesus,” readers might think that Luke is about to tell how the Pharisee answered Jesus. They would have to start reading the sentence over again when this turned out not to make sense. Using a comma for clarity shows that Jesus was actually responding to the Pharisee: “And answering, Jesus said to him.”
Alternatives in questions¶
A comma should be used to show when a question is presenting an alternative. Example from Luke 20:4:
- Correct: “The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or from men?” This means, “Tell me which it was.”
- Incorrect: “The baptism of John, was it from heaven or from men?” With this punctuation, the Pharisees could simply have replied “Yes,” meaning, “Yes, it was one or the other.” That way Jesus would not have been able to use this question to defend his own authority. We can only imagine that if he had written the question in English, he would have used a comma after “heaven.”
An appositive is a word or phrase that expands on the meaning of a noun. When the noun preceding the appositive provides sufficient identification on its own, use commas around the appositive.
- Luke 4:31, “And he went down to Capernaum, a city in Galilee, and he was teaching them on the Sabbaths.”
But when an appositive is essential to the meaning of its noun, do not use commas.
- Luke 1:13, “your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son”
“Because” clause after a positive statement¶
When a comma precedes a “because” clause that follows a positive statement, the comma indicates that the clause applies to the entire statement. When there is no preceding comma, the “because” clause applies to the last word or phrase in the statement that it could refer to.
- If 1 John 3:14 said, without a comma, “We know that we have passed from death into life because we love the brothers,” this would mean that the reason why we have passed from death to life is that we love our fellow believers.
- This is not what John is saying. Rather, the statement should be punctuated with a comma: “We know that we have passed from death into life, because we love the brothers.” This indicates that the reason we know that we have passed from death to life is that we love our fellow believers.
“Because” clause after a negative statement¶
After a negative statement with a preceding comma, a “because” clause is specifying the reason why something did not happen.
- Luke 5:41, “But he was rebuking them, not permitting them to speak, because they knew he was the Christ.” If this said instead “not permitting them to speak because they knew he was the Christ,” it would mean that he did permit them to speak, but for some other reason.
After a negative statement without a preceding comma, a “because” clause is specifying something that was not the reason why something did happen.
- Luke 11:8, “Even if he does not get up to give it to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence … he will give to him as much as he needs.” The neighbor did get up, but the reason was not because the man asking for help was his friend. (In this case, the sentence goes on to explain what the reason actually was.)
In a compound-complex sentence, when the second independent clause has a preceding dependent clause, a comma should follow the conjunction (“and,” “or,” “but”) that joins the two independent clauses. The comma should not precede the conjunction. Example from Luke 4:17:
- Incorrect: The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him, and opening the scroll, he found the place where it was written
- Correct: The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him and, opening the scroll, he found the place where it was written
Compound subject or object¶
When a compound object consists of only two nouns, a comma should not separate them. Example from Luke 4:6:
- Incorrect: I will give to you all this authority, and their glory.
- Correct: I will give to you all this authority and their glory.
When a compound predicate has only two verbs, a comma should not separate them. Example from Luke 1:22:
- Incorrect: He was making signs to them, and remained unable to speak.
- Correct: He was making signs to them and remained unable to speak.
Commas are ordinarily used in between independent clauses in a compound sentence.
- Luke 2:9, “And an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them.”
However, there is discretion to omit the comma in between short phrases.
- Luke 9:39, “And behold, a spirit seizes him and he suddenly cries out.” Omitting the comma helps depict the simultaneity of the actions. It helps indicate that the boy suddenly cries out just when the spirit seizes him.
Use a comma, not a semicolon, when a coordinating conjunction joins the two independent clauses in a compound sentence. However, a semicolon can be used if the conjunction is omitted.
- Incorrect: An angel of the Lord stood before them; and the glory of the Lord shone around them.
- Correct: An angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them.
- Correct: An angel of the Lord stood before them; the glory of the Lord shone around them.
When a compound subject consists of only two nouns, a comma should not separate them. Example from Luke 7:30:
- Incorrect: But the Pharisees, and the lawyers, rejected the purpose of God for themselves.
- Correct: But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves.
In conditional statements, typically an ”if” clause states the condition (the protasis), and a “then” clause states the conclusion or result (the apodosis). The word “then” may be only implied.
When the “if” clause comes before the “then” clause, it should be followed by a comma.
- Luke 11:20, “But if I cast out the demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you.”
When the ‘if” clause comes after the “then” clause, it should not be preceded by a comma.
- Acts 24:19, “But there are certain Jews from Asia who should appear before you and make accusations if they have anything against me.”
Used to set off a contrasting element in a sentence¶
Commas are often used to set off a contrasting element in a sentence.
The element may begin with a conjunction such as “and” or “but,” frequently combined with “not.”
- Luke 13:14b “There are six days on which it is necessary to work. Therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the day of the Sabbath.”
- Galatians 4:31 Therefore, brothers, we are not children of a slave girl, but of the free woman.
- Galatians 1:1 Paul, an apostle—not from men nor by man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, the one who raised him from the dead—
- If “but” can be replaced with “notwithstanding,” “on the other hand,” or “on the contrary,” precede it with a comma.
- This means, if you are joining two “coordinate elements” that are linked but contrasting, use a comma.
Use commas between coordinate adjectives—that is, adjectives that are equal in meaning, that could have their order reversed, or that could be separated by “and.”
- A long, tedious drive home
A clause has a subject and a verb. An independent clause can be a sentence of its own, while a dependent clause cannot. Commas are used to set off dependent clauses.
- Matthew 5:48, “Therefore you must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” A comma is needed because this would not be a complete sentence by itself: “As your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Direct object precedes subject and verb¶
When a direct object or direct-object phrase precedes its subject and verb, a comma should follow the direct object. This is especially helpful in the case of long direct-object phrases.
Romans 8:29 ULT
“Because those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” =
“Because he also predestined those whom he foreknew to be conformed to the image of his Son”
Ezra 7:19 ULT
“And the rest of what is needed for the house of your God that falls to you to give, you may give from the house of the treasures of the king.” =
“And from the house of the treasures of the king you may give the rest of what is needed for the house of your God that falls to you to give.”
There is discretion to omit the comma after a short direct object.
Acts 3:6 ULT
“Silver and gold I do not possess, but what I have, this I give to you.” =
“I do not possess silver and gold, but what I have, this I give to you.”
A comma precedes a direct quotation that is syntactically independent from the rest of the sentence. This is typically the case with reported speech.
- Elizabeth said, “And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me?”
A comma should not precede a direct quotation that is integrated into the rest of the sentence syntactically.
- The expression “whence is this to me” means “where did this come from to me.”
It can often be a judgment call to decide whether a direct quotation, particularly reported speech, is integrated into a sentence. In response to an inquiry, the Chicago Manual of Style suggests that a comma would not be needed in the following case, since “the quoted material is a direct object within a dependent clause” and “a comma would do little to help clarify that”:
- The person who says “I no longer get anything out of reading” has stopped running up against questions to think about as he or she reads.
However, note that in this case the capital letter at the beginning of the quotation is only retained because it is the pronoun “I.” It would not be correct to have a capital letter in mid-sentence with no comma preceding. It is permissible to change the first word of the quotation to lowercase to accommodate this rule.
- Elizabeth meant “and where did this come from” when she said “and whence is this.”
“Even though” clause¶
“Even though” is equivalent to “although,” a subordinating conjunction. It ties a dependent clause to an independent clause and is used to highlight the contrast between the two clauses. (Source: Linguablog)
- She failed the test even though she spent the entire night studying.
Like any dependent clause, an “even though” clause can be placed before the independent clause.
- Even though the book was on the shelf, he wasn’t able to find it.
With participle or gerund phrases¶
Participle or gerund phrases modify a noun or pronoun, adding context. Present participles always end in -ing, e.g. walking, hoping. Past participles often end in -ed, but are sometimes irregular, e.g. tired, upset.
For participial phrases before the main clause, use a comma after the participial phrase.
- Galatians 3:3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by Spirit, are you now finishing by flesh?
For participial phrases in the middle of the sentence, use commas both before and after the phrase.
- Galatians 1:3-5 Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 the one who gave himself for our sins so that he might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
For participial phrases after the main clause, use a comma before the participial phrase.
- Luke 13:22 And he was traveling through cities and villages, teaching and making his journey toward Jerusalem.
A comma is used before a non-restrictive relative clause. Example from Luke 2:5:
- Incorrect: “He registered himself with Mary who was engaged to him.” This is saying that Joseph registered with this Mary as opposed to some other Mary.
- Correct: “He registered himself with Mary, who was engaged to him.”
No comma is used before a restrictive relative clause. Example from Luke 3:7:
- Correct: “He said to the crowds who were coming out to be baptized by him” This is indicating that John said this to these specific crowds.
- Incorrect: “He said to the crowds, who were coming out to be baptized by him” This would mean that all of the crowds in the whole area were coming to be baptized and that John spoke to them when they did.
A sentence adverb or adverbial phrase is one that comes at the beginning of a sentence and indicates how the content of the sentence that follows relates to what has previously been said or the writer or speaker’s attitude toward that content. Words such as “frankly,” “however,” “likewise,” “namely,” “therefore,” “thus,” etc., and phrases such as “in the same way” can be used in this sense. A comma should always follow a sentence adverb or adverbial phrase. In this case, there is not discretion to omit the comma after a short adverbial phrase at the start of a sentence.
- In the same way, it is easy to know what a person is like inside by looking at what that person does.
However, an adverb at the beginning of a sentence that applies to action within the sentence does not have to be set off by a comma.
- Luke 2:13, “Suddenly a multitude of the heavenly army was with the angel.”
- Luke 4:39, “Immediately she got up and began to serve them.”
Series comma (serial comma)¶
Use a comma before the last element in a series, even if that element is preceded by the word “and.” So, “red, white, and blue,” not “red, white and blue.” This helps prevent ambiguity and it provides clarity when an appositive is present rather than a series.
For example, 1 Samuel 18:6 NIV (not a literal rendering but helpful as an example): “The women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with timbrels and lyres.” If the series comma is adopted as a convention, the punctuation seen here indicates that the phrase “with joyful songs and with timbrels and lyres” is an appositive elaborating on how the women met Saul with singing and dancing. If the meaning instead is that these are three ways in which the women met Saul, the punctuation would be, “with singing and dancing, with joyful songs, and with timbrels and lyres.” Adopting the series comma as a standard allows writers to make this kind of distinction.
However, do not use commas to separate items in a series when there is a conjunction between each element in the series.
- Incorrect: Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob
- Correct: Abraham and Isaac and Jacob
“So that” clauses (alternatively “so,” “that”)¶
When “so that” (or “so” or “that”) is preceded by a comma, it introduces a result clause.
- “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that he will not let you go” means “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and as a result, he will not let you go.”
With no preceding comma, “so that” introduces a purpose clause.
- Without a comma, “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart so that he will not let you go” means “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart in order to make him not let you go.” (There can be a lot of theology riding on a comma!)
Subject and verb¶
A comma should not come between a subject and its verb. Example from Luke 9:48:
- Incorrect: Whoever welcomes this child in my name, welcomes me.
- Correct: Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me.
In general, commas are not needed around the word “too.”
- Luke 19:9, “he too is a son of Abraham” (= “he is a son of Abraham like us”).
However, use commas around “too” when the word is indicating an additional consideration.
- “He has repented and, too, he is a son of Abraham” (“he has repented and, for another thing, he is a son of Abraham”)
Do not begin a sentence with a conjunction if that can be avoided.
Do not substitute an ampersand (&) for the word “and.”
Phrases joined by conjunctions should be parallel. That is, they should share the same structure.
- Correct: Either she likes to see him or she doesn’t like to see him.
- Incorrect: Either she likes to see him or she doesn’t like seeing him.
Do not use contractions in the unfoldingWord resources that you write or edit.
Use an en-dash (–) to indicate a range of numbers.
- From 30–40 people attend regularly.
The following points describe standard usages for the em-dash. However, since our materials are going to be translated into other languages, it is good to keep the punctuation in them as simple and basic as possible. Many languages do not use dashes in the ways described, and so while these are standard usages, it may be best to avoid them in any materials that are intended to be translated.
An em-dash may substitute for a comma, semicolon, colon, or period.
- He said he was going to leave—and that’s just what he did!
A pair of em–dashes (—) may be used to set apart a phrase or clause.
- We will have the chance to say—once and for all—whether we want to stay or go.
A pair of em-dashes may substitute for parentheses.
- He—that is, my husband—is a gem.
An em-dash at the end of a sentence may indicate that something is being left unsaid or that a speaker has been interrupted.
- And if that doesn’t work—
Ellipses (omitted material)¶
Conventionally a comma is used to indicate an “ellipsis” in the sense of material that has been omitted that is to be understood from the context.
- Luke 9:58 ULT
- “The foxes have dens, and the birds of the sky, nests, but the Son of Man does not have anywhere to lay his head” =
- “The foxes have dens, and the birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man does not have anywhere to lay his head”
- James 3:12 ULT
- “A fig tree is not able to make olives, is it, my brothers, or a grapevine, figs?” =
- “A fig tree is not able to make olives, is it, my brothers, or is a grapevine able to make figs?”
There is discretion not to use the comma when the meaning would be clear without it.
A comma is not used with an “ellipsis” in the sense of the punctuation mark (…) that stands in for material that has been omitted.
- Luke 1:3 ULT
- Original: “it seemed good to me also, having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, to write for you an orderly account”
- Incorrect with ellipsis: “it seemed good to me also, … to write for you an orderly account”
- Correct with ellipsis: “it seemed good to me also … to write for you an orderly account”
Leave no space between the superscript (note number) in the text and the word or mark of punctuation that it follows. Place the superscript before a dash but after all other marks of punctuation.
Our English-language resources should be written and edited for a target audience of people who have learned English as a second language in formal settings. Our experience shows that translators who use these resources with English as their Gateway Language and translators who translate these resources into other Gateway Languages are likely to have this background. Our experience also shows that these translators will “call us on it” if our resources contain informal usages, even if those usages are now becoming accepted within standard English. So in writing and editing our English-language resources, avoid informal usages that have more recently become accepted, and employ more formal, longer-established usages. Here are some specific examples.
(who vs. whom)
- Informal: the people who John is writing to
- Formal: the people to whom John is writing
(adjectives for adverbs)
- Informal: They will need to think different about that.
- Formal: They will need to think differently about that.
(indefinite “they” vs. “he”)
- Informal: If anyone has questions, they can speak to me afterwards.
- Formal: If anyone has questions, he can speak to me afterwards.
- Informal: You may wish to simply retain the question form in your translation.
- Formal: You may wish simply to retain the question form in your translation.
- Informal: This doesn’t mean that Zechariah saw the angel in a vision.
- Formal: This does not mean that Zechariah saw the angel in a vision.
- Informal: Jesus speaks figuratively of God’s wisdom as if it was able to speak by itself.
- Formal: Jesus speaks figuratively of God’s wisdom as if it were able to speak by itself.
- (prepositions at the end of sentences)
- Informal: Give God what he is entitled to. Formal: Give God what he deserves. (It is not necessary to be excessively formal and say, “Give God that to which he is entitled.” Often a simpler equivalent can be found.)
Use hyphens with fractions when the entire fraction is an adjective. Do not use hyphens when the quantity word (“half,” “quarter,” etc.) is a noun and the number is an adjective.
- The gas tank is one-third full.
- Three quarters of the group went home.
A hyphen is used between parts of a compound word or between syllables of a word divided by a line break.
- A twenty-nine-year-old man
Never hyphenate compounds that include an adverb (typically, a word ending in ‘-ly’).
- Correct: A divinely appointed meeting
- Incorrect: A divinely-appointed meeting
“Like” and “as”¶
Use the word “like” to compare things (nouns). Use the word “as” to compare actions (verbs).
- Incorrect: God does not change like created things change.
- Correct: God does not change as created things change.
- Incorrect: Just like cattle fatten themselves, you have lived to enjoy things.
- Correct: Just as cattle fatten themselves, you have lived to enjoy things.
- Correct: Just like cattle that fatten themselves, you have lived to enjoy things.
“Nor” is a conjunction that means “and not.” The subject follows the auxiliary verb in an independent clause introduced by “nor.”
- He did not call, and he did not write. =
- He did not call, nor did he write.
According to the current conventions of international standard English (the usage was previously different), when an auxiliary verb is negated, this negates the main verbs that follow in a compound predicate, so “or” is used between those verbs.
- Correct: I will not leave you or forsake you.
- Incorrect: I will not leave you nor forsake you.
However, this would also be correct, though it is an older usage: “I will neither leave you nor forsake you.”
Similarly, when a verb is negative, this negates both parts of a compound object, so “or” is used between those objects.
- Correct: I do not like carrots or peas.
- Incorrect: I do not like carrots nor peas.
Alternatively, though an older usage: I like neither carrots nor peas.
Another alternative is to add a comma. This effectively creates a compound sentence with an implied subject and verb, and this allows the use of “nor.”
- I do not like carrots, nor peas. =
- I do not like carrots, nor [do I like] peas.
Not only … but also¶
Parallelism is important here. The element that follows “but also” should parallel the element that follows “not only.”
- Correct: He’s not only intelligent but also funny. (Two adjectives, “intelligent” and “funny,” used in parallel.)
- Incorrect: He’s not only intelligent but also has a great sense of humor. (The phrase after “but also” does not parallel the adjective after “not only.” This would be correct if it said, “Not only is he intelligent, he also has a great sense of humor.”)
There is discretion to use a comma for emphasis before the “but also” element, even though this is an exception to the general rule that says not to use commas between elements introduced by correlative conjunctions such as either/or, neither/nor, not/but, etc.
- Acceptable: He’s not only intelligent, but also funny.
In all unfoldingWord resources, use words for the numbers from one through ten and use numerals for higher numbers.
- Why did the other nine not come back?
- Certainly you will leave the 99 other sheep in the wilderness and go search for the lost sheep until you have found it.
- The number was 144,000.
If there would be a mix of words and numerals in the same context, use the same format for all the numbers that would be used for the majority. Example from Genesis 32:15:
- Incorrect: 30 milking camels and their colts, 40 cows and ten bulls, 20 female donkeys and ten male donkeys
- Correct: 30 milking camels and their colts, 40 cows and 10 bulls, 20 female donkeys and 10 male donkeys
When numbers are adjectives rather than nouns, write them out:
- I am giving a thousand pieces of silver to your brother.
When numbers are common nouns rather than proper nouns, write them out:
- “I hope the Lord your God will give you a hundred times more soldiers than you already have” (2 Samuel 24:3). If this said “one hundred,” that would be written as a numeral.
Write out numbers that are titles, for example, “The Twelve” in the gospels and “The Thirty’’ in 2 Samuel 23:23.
When numbers higher than ten are figurative, they should be written out to show that they are not literal. For example, δισμυριάδες μυριάδων in Revelation 9:16 seems to mean figuratively “an indefinite number of incalculable immensity.” So rather than say 200,000,000, ULT might say “a double myriad of myriads,” and a translation note would explain the usage. UST might say something like “a couple of hundred million” to indicate the indefinite usage.
Similarly when numbers higher than ten are idiomatic, they should be written out to show that they are not literal. For example, one literal version translates Judges 6:15 as “my thousand is the poorest in Manasseh.” ULT would not say “my 1,000 is the poorest in Manasseh,” but write out the word, and UST could express the idiomatic meaning with “clan.”
When referring to a specific date in the month-day format, use cardinal numbers (one, two, three) rather than ordinal numbers (first, second, third).
- On April 17, Haman summoned the king’s secretaries.
In text, do not use ordinal abbreviations. If an ordinal must be used, spell it out.
- in one day—on the thirteenth of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar
Use an ordinal number in expressions such as “the first of January,” since you are placing the day in a series: Of all the days in January, this day is the first.
- He told them that every year they should celebrate on the eighth and ninth of March.
To indicate a range of numbers, use an en-dash rather than a hyphen. The en-dash (with no space before or after) is used to represent a span of numbers, dates, or times.
Use parentheses ( ) to enclose material that is informative but incidental. The sentence should work just as well without the material in parentheses.
Other punctuation with parentheses:
Place periods inside parentheses that enclose a complete sentence.
- Correct: The cake looks great. (She is an accomplished baker.)
- Incorrect: The cake looks great. (She is an accomplished baker).
However, if you place a complete sentence of parenthetical material within another sentence, do not use a period at the end and do not capitalize the first letter.
- Correct: Not surprisingly, the cake that Susan made (she is an accomplished baker) looks great.
Place periods outside closing parentheses that do not enclose a complete sentence.
- Correct: The cake looks great (and tastes even better).
- Incorrect: The cake looks great (and tastes even better.)
Only use a comma after a closing parenthesis if the sentence would need a comma even if it did not contain parenthetical material.
- Correct: We’re going to the zoo tomorrow (Tuesday), which will be nice.
- Incorrect: We will go to the zoo tomorrow (Tuesday), if the weather is nice.
Question marks and exclamation points¶
Place question marks and exclamation points within parentheses if they are part of a parenthetical complete sentence. Then punctuate the rest of the sentence as you would even if it did not contain this parenthetical material.
- Correct: The man (what was his name?) left a note.
- Correct: I was not invited (and I am furious!).
- Incorrect: I was not invited (and I am furious!)
Singular possession: For possession by one person or thing, use ’s.
- He left there and started traveling back to his father’s house.
This even applies to names that end in an s, x, or z sound.
- Dickens’s novels
There is one exception. For classical and biblical names that end in s or es and have two or more syllables, just add an apostrophe. However, if a name has only one syllable, add ‘s.
- Jesus’ disciples, Lazarus’ body, Ramses’ kingdom, but Zeus’s warnings.
Plural possession: Use an apostrophe alone after the name or word if it ends with an s. Otherwise, use ’s.
- The high priests’ robes
- The children’s room
Questions that are quoted within sentences should end with a question mark. No comma should be used after the quotation, even though it will be a complete sentence. (This is an exception to the general rule for quotations in mid-sentence.)
- “Are you really my son Esau?” he asked (Genesis 27:24).
For the use of quotation marks, follow the conventions of American English. First-level quotations get double quotation marks. Second-level quotations get single quotation marks. Periods and commas go inside quotation marks. Colons and semicolons go outside quotation marks.
- American usage: He said it was “an unexpected bonanza.”
- British usage: He said it was ‘an unexpected bonanza’.
Question marks and exclamation points go inside quotation marks if they are part of the direct quotation, but they go outside quotation marks if they are not part of the direct quotation.
- He asked, “Why do you want to know?”
- Can you believe he said, “You do not need to know that”?
Use single quotation marks for a second-level quotation inside the double quotation marks for a first-level quotation.
- Jesus replied, “No, I will not do that, because it is written in the Scriptures, ‘People need more than just food in order to live.’”
For direct quotations that are more than 40 words long, use block quotes instead of placing the material inside quotation marks within the text. Block quotes should be single spaced, indented ½ inch or 5–7 spaces, and offset from the main text. Do not use quotation marks around block quotes. Begin the block quote on a new line.
If a block quote is a quotation from the Bible, the citation is handled differently than it would be if the quotation were in the text. Put the citation in parentheses after the quotation. Put the opening parenthesis after the final punctuation mark of the quote, and do not use any punctuation after the citation. Example:
I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the world will enter the city in all their glory. Its gates will never be closed at the end of day, because there is no night there. (Revelation 21:22–26 NLT)
After a run-in quotation from the Bible (a quote that is included in the running text of a paragraph), put the citation, which may include a version abbreviation, after the closing quotation mark, with the final punctuation after the citation.
- Jesus told Thomas at the Last Supper, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
- Was Paul advocating slavery when he wrote, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do” (Colossians 3:22 NLT)?
If the quotation is in the middle of a sentence, put the reference immediately after the ending quotation mark, before any necessary punctuation.
- When Paul said, “Every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God” (Romans 14:11), he was paraphrasing Isaiah 45:23.
When a quote comes at the end of a sentence and it is a question or an exclamation, put its final punctuation stays inside the quotation marks, but add a period after the closing parenthesis.
- When the Lord asked Cain where Abel was, Cain replied, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9).
When to use a colon before a quote¶
If the sentence used to introduce a quotation could stand alone, use a colon just before the quotation.
- Then he spoke this parable: “Someone had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it, but did not find any” (Luke 13:6).
If the word just before the quotation is a verb indicating someone uttering the quoted words, use a comma.
- Then he said, “What is the kingdom of God like, and to what will I compare it?” (Luke 13:18).
Punctuating partial-verse quotations¶
Even if you do not quote an entire verse, if the portion you are quoting would be a full sentence, end it with a period.
- In Luke 13:24, Jesus told a questioner, “Struggle to enter through the narrow door.”
Source for the previous three items: http://kathyide.com/
Regional language variety¶
Follow the conventions of American English (U.S. English)
- Spelling: e.g., color, not colour; curb, not kerb; worshiped, not worshipped; program, not programme; etc.
- Punctuation: Place periods and commas inside of quotation marks; use double quotes for first-level quotations and single quotes for second-level quotations; etc.
Use a semicolon between closely related independent clauses that are not joined by a coordinating conjunction. Do not use a semicolon with a conjunction.
- Incorrect: An angel of the Lord stood before them; and the glory of the Lord shone around them.
- Correct: An angel of the Lord stood before them; the glory of the Lord shone around them.
Do not use a semicolon between an independent clause and a dependent clause.
- Incorrect: Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord; because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
- Correct: Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
A semicolon should be placed outside of ending quotation marks.
- He said it was “an unexpected bonanza”; it was not clear what he meant by that.
Use single spaces rather than double spaces between sentences.
Remove rogue spaces at the beginning and end of paragraphs.
Speech and thoughts¶
Out-loud speech: Use quotation marks (double or single, as appropriate).
Unspoken thoughts: In fiction, writers often represent unspoken thoughts (inner dialogue) in italics, without using quotation marks. However, the convention in Bible translations is to represent unspoken thoughts as quotations, just like out-loud speech.
- Saul threw the spear, for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall” (1 Samuel 18:11)
- Only in a work of fiction would this be punctuated: Saul threw the spear, thinking, I will pin David to the wall.
Do not use quotation marks with indirect quotations, and do not place a comma before an indirect quotation.
- Correct: One of the laws that God gave Moses said that only priests were permitted to eat that bread.
- Incorrect: One of the laws that God gave Moses said that “only priests were permitted to eat that bread.”
- Incorrect: One of the laws that God gave Moses said that, only priests were permitted to eat that bread.
The verb in a relative clause agrees in number with the noun or pronoun that the relative clause modifies.
- Correct: “If I have sinned, what have I done to you, you who see everything we do?” (Job 7:20 NIV)
- Incorrect: “If I have sinned, what have I done to you, you who sees everything we do?
A verb that follows an “or” list agrees in number with the closest subject.
- If one or two or three are helped, we will be grateful.
- If three people or two or even one is helped, we will be grateful.
A verb that precedes an “and” list agrees in number with the closest subject.
- There are three apples, two oranges, and a banana on the table.
- There is a banana, two oranges, and three apples on the table.
When times of the day are given in full, half, or quarter hours, the numbers are usually spelled out in the text.
- The meeting continued until half past two.
- We’ll start again at quarter to twelve.
With the expression “o’clock,” the number is usually spelled out.
- Her day begins at four o’clock in the morning.
- All of you must be ready to leave by eleven o’clock.
With AM and PM and the 24-hour clock, use numerals.
- The first train leaves at 5:22 AM and the last at 11:00 PM
- The first train leaves at 05:22 and the last at 23:00.
Titles and ranks¶
Use lowercase when the title or rank is a general reference, but use uppercase when it refers to a specific individual.
- The queen opens each session of Parliament.
- Before the tea, the Queen visited the gardens on the estate.
Words being discussed¶
Words that are being discussed and that do not form part of the grammar of a sentence should be set off with double quotes.
- How would you use the word “amped” in a sentence?