Working title: Web Elements of Style
This document is both an in-progress draft of some short, practical opinions on what makes good written web markup and a personalized list of editorial decisions that are a superset of those found in the New York Times Manual of Style. The goal here is to bring a consistent voice to all the writing on this site.
Please feel free to remix or copy the contents here for your own personal use. A link back to this page is appreciated, but not required. This document will continue to evolve over time, so check back occasionally.
If you do any sort of writing, particularly online, you should be using a style guide. Having some sort of reference for how you write will help you make consistent editorial decisions, and it will help bring a level of polish to your work that many miss out on.
Style & tone
Go read “The Elements of Style” by Strunk & White. Brevity and clarity are paramount. Try to avoid didactic language. Write with purpose.
Establish the context of a person, place, or thing without making the reader feel stupid. Ex. “K.Q. Dreger, a writer from Ohio, created the Audacious Fox Style Guide, a resource he hopes is copied by bloggers everywhere.” Don’t be a jerk. Always make it clear who and where you’re quoting from. Quote things exactly as they appear.
“Be sparing with quotes. Direct quotes should be used when either the speaker or what he said is surprising, or when the words he used are particularly pithy or graphic. Otherwise you can probably paraphrase him more concisely.” — Economist Style Guide
A note on permalinks
Less is more. Strip the trailing slash and file extensions from any URLs (e.g.
/title/) and avoid adding in extra cruft like extraneous dates or words. Keep permalinks short, but not so devoid of context that someone looking at the bare URL would struggle to identify what the linked-to content might be about.
A note on links
Links are one of the most important differentiators between paper and webpages. Links combine context and citation into one user-friendly element. Unfortunately, many links wrap the incorrect part of a sentence, which makes them feel off-putting.
Generally, a link should start its anchor with the verb that immediately precedes the main subject of the linked content and continue until the end of the clause.
✅ In his book on the stock market, Mr. Dreger wrote about the fall of the 2008 market.
✅ In his book on the stock market, Mr. Dreger wrote about the fall of the 2008 market
Avoid linking to entire sentences or independent clauses. These run-on links are both aesthetically unappealing and sloppy markup.
❌ In his book on the stock market, Mr. Dreger wrote about the fall of the 2008 market.
In certain situations, especially when linking to definitions or individual works like movies, books, or music, anchor the link as closely to the subject as possible:
✅ While looking up dictionary terms, Mr. Dreger came across the term onomatopoeia.
✅ The reviews for “La La Land” are out.
apostrophes. Following a word that ends in an ’s,’ “The Moss’ house.”
books. Titles go in quotes, with principle words capitalized.
back up (v.).
Buzzfeed. A normalized capitalization of news site BuzzFeed.
capitalization. TitleCapitalization.com. Capitalize all verbs, nouns and pronouns, and all words of four or more letters. The following words may be left lowercase: [a, and, as, at, but, by, en, for, if, in, of, on, or, the, to, v., vs., via].
commas. For placement of a comma with other punctuation, see Parenthesis; Quotation Marks; use the serial comma.
defunct, now-. No longer existing or functioning.
esports. Competitive video games.
gamification. To make oft mundane activities exciting and addicting by adding game-like elements.
go-to. My go-to song is ‘Shake it Off’.
headlines. Written in simple English and should be able to be read as a sentence if all words removed for copy fitting are restored. Words that would normally be italicized (titles of books, video games, etc.) should be set in apostrophes.
Internet, the. This term (uppercase) refers to a global system of networked devices. Use the web when referring to content that can be found on websites or online services.
iOS. Apple’s mobile operating system, which runs exclusively on iPhones and iPads.
italicized blogs and publications. Daring Fireball, Kotaku, Pixel Envy, Polygon, Wired.
lock in. Being forced to use a certain type of product.
MacOS. Apple’s desktop operating system, which runs exclusively on Apple-made computers.
names. First reference. K.Q. Dreger. Subsequent references. Mr. Dreger.
Note 7, Samsung. Samsung’s flagship smartphone, released in 2016, that was later recalled due to safety concerns. Please note the space between ‘Note’ and ‘7,’ which differs from marketing materials that use ‘Note7’ in their copy.
pull quote. A block of text, taken from another source.
quotation marks. Any added punctuation goes outside.
real time. Two words, denoting this.
Retina. Apple-branded displays with very high resolution.
roundup. A collection of things.
siriously (exclam.). To express surprise, disappointment; spoken softly under one’s breath as you stare, baffled, at a response from Siri.
speedrun (speedrunning, speedrunner). Play-through of a video game, with the intention of completing it as fast as possible.
style guide. A quintessential tool for any writer. It helps enforce a consistent standard of writing and language across multiple works.
TidBits. A normalized capitalization of Apple news site, TidBITS. (For you, NH.)
trade-off. A balance or compromise between two desirable yet incompatible ideas.
tvOS. Apple’s TV operating system, which runs exclusively on Apple TV.
WatchOS. Apple’s mobile operating system, which runs exclusively on Apple Watch.
weblog. One word. An online blog.
website. One word. A collection of pages on the Internet.
Yahoo. Internet search and advertising company; to be referred to as “Yahoo”, without the “!” at the end.