There are people who think that publishing on the Web is an excuse to ignore style considerations and throw caution to the wind, but we at NowPublic disagree. We're not naive enough to think you'll pour over this with a fine-tooth comb and observe every letter of the law, but we can't help ourselves - we have to try. So, in the name of grammarians and typo-busters everywhere, here goes.
First mention: Unless the abbreviation/acronym is commonly known, spell out the complete term the first time it appears in the text, then show the abbreviation or acronym within parentheses. Example: The Department of Transportation (DoT) is responsible for roads and highways. The DoT’s budget was slashed this year.
E.g. vs. i.e.:
- Use periods in “e.g.” and “i.e.” and do not follow with a comma or colon. Do not capitalize the word that follows unless it is the beginning of a sentence.
- Place e.g. and i.e. phrases in parentheses if they fall in the middle of a sentence (e.g. like this).
- Use a capital “E” or capital “I” if they start the sentence.
Example: E.g. stands for “exempli gratia,” meaning “for example,” and i.e. stands for “id est,” meaning “that is.” They may not be used interchangeably.
Periods: Do not use periods in acronyms.Example: NATO, UNESCO, RCMP, US, UK, NY, etc.
Plural: To form the plural of an acronym, use a lowercase “s” without an apostrophe. Example: One DVD, several DVDs.
And vs. ampersand: Use “and” rather than “&” unless you are specifically referencing the symbol, or unless the ampersand is officially part of a title or name. Example: INCORRECT – Boys & girls play well together. CORRECT – Procter & Gamble.
That vs. which: That introduces a restrictive clause—a clause that narrows a category or identifies a particular item being described, and is essential for the sentence to make grammatical sense. Which introduces a non-restrictive clause—a clause that contains auxiliary information and thus could be omitted without affecting the meaning of the sentence. It is preceded by a comma. Which can also be used restrictively when it is preceded by a preposition.
Example: INCORRECT – It was the job which brought them together. CORRECT – It was the job that brought them together. CORRECT – The job, which brought them together, involved a lot of overtime.
When used in titles, subtitles and subheadings, ensure prepositions, conjunctions, posts and forms of “to be” are not capitalized.Example: INCORRECT – How To Write A Title At NowPublic. CORRECT – How to Write a Title at NowPublic.
Bolding should be used in subheadings only. Do not bold keywords or other random words in copy.
Title case: Use title-case capitalization (capitalize everything but prepositions, conjunctions, posts and forms of to be) for article titles, subtitles and subheadings. (See: Capitalization under Adverbs/Prepositions/Conjunctions)
Nouns: Do not capitalize random nouns in body copy.Example: INCORRECT – The Government office was never open. CORRECT – The government office was never open.
Compound modifiers: In general, hyphenate two or more words that precede and modify a noun as a unit. Exception: when the first word ends in “ly” do not hyphenate. The goal with hyphenation is clarity of meaning.
Example: INCORRECT – The moderately-successful entrepreneur started from nothing. CORRECT – The moderately successful entrepreneur started from nothing. CORRECT – The money-hungry entrepreneur was building an empire.
Headings: When a hyphenated word appears in a heading, the second word in the compound is rendered in sentence case. Example: INCORRECT – The Money-Hungry Entrepreneur Hits Gold. CORRECT –The Money-hungry Entrepreneur Hits Gold
Titles: Use italics to highlight titles of books, magazines, CDs, movies, video games, song titles and report titles. Put article titles in double quotations marks. Example: INCORRECT – The album “Boogy Woogy” made it to number one in only two weeks. CORRECT – The album Boogy Woogy made it to number one in only two weeks.
Emphasis: Do not use italics to emphasize a word that is about to be defined, but in this case, use double quotations marks. Never use italics and quotation marks together to emphasize a word.
Example: INCORRECT – The term “sustainability” has been used by conservationists to indicate the avoidance of resource depletion. CORRECT – The term “sustainability” has been used by conservationists to indicate the avoidance of resource depletion.
Anchor text: Always embed links in anchor text. Use the globe and chain icon on the toolbar to embed URLs.
Example: INCORRECT -- No wonder Zürich was named the city with "the best quality of living" and "the wealthiest city in Europe" for the third year in a row at http://www.monocle.com/Magazine/volume-3/Issue-25/. CORRECT -- No wonder Zürich was named by Monocle Magazine as the city with "the best quality of living" and "the wealthiest city in Europe" for the third year in a row.
Bullets and Numbers: Render bulleted and numbered lists using the icons on the NowPublic upload form body window toolbar.
Capitalization: The first word in all list items should be capitalized if the line is a full sentence, otherwise lowercase.
Punctuation: List items should only end with a period if they comprise a complete sentence, otherwise a semi-colon. End the last item in the list with a period regardless.
Grammar: All items in a list should be syntactically consistent (using the same grammatical construction).
Example: INCORRECT – Here’s what you’ll need on your first day of school:
- A pencil and notebook.
- Don’t forget your pencil sharpener
- Pack some snacks
- A bottle of water.
CORRECT – Here’s what you’ll need on your first day of school:
- a pencil and notebook;
- a pencil sharpener;
- a bottle of water.
Numerals: Render all numbers as numerals unless they start a sentence and unless they are part of a title or proper noun. Example: INCORRECT – There were twenty students in the class. INCORRECT – 20 students attended class. CORRECT – There were 20 students in the class. CORRECT – Twenty students attended class.
Commas: Include commas in numbers containing four or more digits. Example: INCORRECT – 4763. CORRECT – 4,763
Money: Render money in numerals using the appropriate currency symbol unless it starts a sentence, in which case it should be spelled out.Example: INCORRECT – She had fifty dollars in her pocket. CORRECT – She had $50 in her pocket.
Form the possessive case of a singular noun by adding an apostrophe and an “s”, unless the singular noun ends in “s,” in which case, simply use an apostrophe. Please pay careful note of the correct use of its vs. it’s. Example: INCORRECT – Insiders guide, Burns’s poems. CORRECT --Insider’s guide, Burns’ poems.
Pronoun agreement: Do not use a plural pronoun such as “they” or “their” with a singular antecedent such as “everyone,” or with company or organization names. Example: INCORRECT – NowPublic has published their style guide. CORRECT – NowPublic has published its style guide.
- Colons: One colon per sentence, please!
- Commas: No serial (Oxford) commas. Example: INCORRECT – The flag is red, white, and blue. CORRECT – The flag is red, white and blue.
- Em dash: Use em dashes with no spaces on either side to mark abrupt breaks in sentences.
Example: He was aghast—how had he grown horns?
- En dash: Use en dashes with no spaces on either side to delineate a series. Example: pp. 31–46. Use en dashes with spaces on either side in titles and headers.
- Ellipses: Do not place spaces within and around ellipses. Place final punctuation, if required, at the end of an ellipsis. Example: INCORRECT – Let’s see . . . where did that cat hide my contact lenses? CORRECT – Let’s see...where did that cat hide my contact lenses?
- Periods: Use a single space after a period and between sentences, and after a colon. The two-space rule is a relic of the typewriter age.
- Slashes: Do not place any spaces in between slashes. Example: INCORRECT – and / or. CORRECT – and/or.
- Semi-colons: A semicolon is used to join two complete sentences, or to separate items in a list that would be confusing to read if separated only by commas. Example: Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet; Anne-Marie Macdonald’s The Attic, The Pearls and Three Fine Girls; Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, and Ibsen’s A Doll’s House are all on the course curriculum.
- Quotation marks: Use double quotations instead of single ones in all cases except when showing quotes within quotes. Example: George said, “He just said ‘Hello!’”
Avoid first-person point of view (“I,” “we” or “our”) and instead use the third-person voice.
Avoid using the passive voice whenever possible and instead rephrase so the subject comes before the verb. Example: ACTIVE: You can divide your documents into as many sections as you want. PASSIVE: Your document can be divided into as many sections as you want.
British/Canadian vs American Spelling
Use local spelling of words according to a writer’s country of residence (ie: favour vs. favor).
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