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Grammar & Punctuation

General rules for writing a great copy.

American English

DataCamp is headquartered in the U.S. and the U.S. contains our largest concentration of users. All DataCamp copy should be written using American English. If unsure you can always check the spelling differences between American and British English.

  • ✅ This standardizes the modeling of colors.
  • ❌ This standardises the modelling of colours.

Using American English also means using American punctuation rules:

  • Commas, periods, and exclamation marks should be placed inside of quotation marks when applicable. Ex: “I love DataCamp,” said Michael.
  • Include a comma after the following abbreviations: i.e., e.g.,
  • Include a period after the following abbreviations: Ms., Mrs., Mr.

Ampersands

In general, ampersands should not be used in DataCamp copy, and should never be used in a complete sentence. Ampersands should be used very sparingly, only in copy that does not end in a punctuation mark and when space is at an absolute premium. Examples include: Graph labels, email subject lines, social media posts.

  • ✅ DataCamp has courses in R and Python.
  • ❌ DataCamp has courses in R & Python.

Capitalization

Only proper nouns (the name of a person, place, or organization) and the first word in a sentence should be capitalized. Noteworthy terminology, such as “data science” or “machine learning,” should not be capitalized unless they are part of a title or headline. These guidelines should be followed in ad copy as well.

For more specific guidelines on the capitalization of DataCamp product features, see Terminology in this guide.

Also see a section about titles, headlines, subtitles.

Comma usage

The Oxford comma (see examples below) should continue to be used in most body copy, such as course descriptions, the main text of blog posts and emails, and long-form articles. Because we are frequently writing about complex topics, the Oxford comma can be helpful to clarify the meaning of sentences.

However, there are exceptions for Marketing and Product teams in particular. Please see detailed explanations and examples below.

When to use the Oxford comma: Body copy

The Oxford comma places a comma between the word “and” or “or” and the last item in a list. A single item in a list may also contain the word “and” or “or”.

  • ✅ DataCamp has courses in R, Python, SQL, and spreadsheets.
  • ✅ I love learning about data science and analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.

When you should not use the Oxford comma: Short-form marketing and product copy

The Oxford comma should not be used in copy that does not form a complete sentence. Additionally, the Oxford comma should not be used when space is at a premium (such as social media posts) and the sentence’s meaning is already clear. Do not use the Oxford comma in: headlines, article or website page subheads, email subject lines, social media posts, onboarding instructions in the product, text on buttons in the product:

  • ✅ New courses in R, Python and spreadsheets

Dates and times

Dates

When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec. Spell out March, April, May, June and July. Do not include a “th” or “rd” at the end of dates (e.g. 3rd, 15th).

  • ✅ The webinar is on Jan. 30.

Exception: Where space and character limits are at a premium, particularly in the product and on social media, do not include a period after the abbreviation for the month.

When a phrase lists only a month and year, spell out the month and do not separate the month and the year with commas.

  • ✅ The product will launch in November 2019.

When a phrase refers to a month, day and year, set off the year with commas.

  • ✅ The next RStudio conference is on January 12, 2019, in Austin.

Times

Indicate AM and PM with all-caps, no periods, and a space between the number and the AM or PM. For even hours, do not add zeros.

  • ✅ 8 AM
  • ✅ 3:15 PM

Time zones

Time zones should also be in all-caps, with no periods.

  • ✅ 8 AM EST
  • ✅ 3:15 PM CET

Spacing

There should only be one space following punctuation marks and between sentences.

Em dash (long dash)

Always use the em dash, or long dash, for punctuation. Note: This should not be confused with hyphens, which are still appropriate for hyphenated terms and compound modifiers (e.g. high-rise, 21st-century skills). There should not be any spaces on either side of the em dash.

Shortcut for an em dash on a Mac: Shift + Option + Dash

Shortcut for an em dash on Windows: Ctrl + Alt + Dash

  • ✅ Our instructors—who can make more than $150,000 per year from DataCamp courses—are experts in their fields.
  • ❌ Our instructors — who can make more than $150,000 per year from DataCamp courses — are experts in their fields.
  • ❌ Our instructors — who can make more than $150,000 per year from DataCamp courses — are experts in their fields.
  • ❌ Our instructors - who can make more than $150,000 per year from DataCamp courses - are experts in their fields.

Hyperlinks

When including a hyperlink in body copy, do not include “https:” or “www.” This ensures cleaner copy that is easier to read and takes up less space.

Hyphens

Use hyphens to link all the words in a compound adjective. Do not use a hyphen if the construction includes very or an adverb ending in -ly.

  • ✅ Our company makes data-driven decisions.
  • ✅ The project had quickly diminishing returns.

Numbers

In general, spell out numbers one through nine, and use figures for numbers 10 and higher.

  • ✅ It takes about four hours to complete a course. It may take more than 80 hours to complete a track.

Common exceptions to the rule above include:

  • Cents: 8 cents
  • Dollars: $3
  • Dates: March 4
  • Dimensions: 5 foot 2 inches (1.6m)
    • Always include a conversion to meters for an international audience
  • Millions, billions: 6 billion people
    • Spell out million, billion, etc., unless space will not allow it. In that case, use a single capital letter to indicate the amount
    • ✅ $7M
  • Percentages: 2%
  • Speed
    • Always include a conversion to kilometers for an international audience
    • ✅ 10 mph (16 km/h)
  • Temperatures
    • Always include a conversion to celsius for an international audience
    • ✅ 5 degrees F (-15 degrees C)
    • ✅ 5 F (-15 C)
  • Times: 4 PM

Spell out numbers used at the beginning of a sentence. Exception: Never spell out years.

  • ✅ Ten thousand people marched on the capital.
  • ✅ 1999 was a bad year for technology companies.

Use commas to set off each group of three digits in numerals higher than 999 (except for years and addresses).

  • ✅ 12,650

Use decimals (up to two places) for amounts in the millions and billions that do not require a precise figure.

  • ✅ $3.74 billion

Add an “s” but no apostrophe to a number to make it plural. The same rule applies to decades. Use an apostrophe on a decade only if cutting off the initial figures.

  • ✅ She kept rolling 7s
  • ✅ the 1980s
  • ✅ ‘80s

Use hyphens for phone numbers.

  • ✅ 555-555-5555

Titles, headlines, subtitles

Capitalize the first letter of all words in a title, headline, or subtitle except “stop words,” such as articles and prepositions; this can also be referred to as title case. Examples of stop words in English include: a, all, and, for, each, how, in, with.

Versus, vs.

Always use the full word “versus” in body copy, such as in a full sentence.

  • ✅ If it’s DataCamp versus Pluralsight, DataCamp is a much better choice.

Always use the lowercase abbreviation “vs.” in titles and subtitles.

  • ✅ TensorFlow vs. Keras for Deep Learning