Story Style

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Note: Whereas some languages, like French and German, have standardized forms governed by regulatory bodies, English is in many ways a free-for-all. Let this be a collection of information on which we english-speakers (typers?) agree.

Parent: Editors Team

What is a Manual of Style

This document is intended to form a manual of style that dictates the way stories are written, mainly in matters of format, punctuation, and grammar. The Manual of soylent Style will hopefully create a uniform presentation that is in line with journalistic practices, while leaving many matters open to the personal preferences of editors and submitters.

Why a Manual of Style?

As we develop our own unique process, this will inform on common editor practices, and help guide new editors to the conventions that have been established thus far.

Story Structure

Stories begin with:

  • "[$submitter] writes:"
  • or "[$submitter] informs us of [a link]" (when the submission contains little or no summary)

The colon and structure signifies the following text is the summary, and quotes are not necessary surrounding the entire text. [$submitter] should be a link to their site profile if available. The next component should be a summary of the article with in-line links, and any direct quotes from the article(s) using quotation marks normally. HTML formatting should use <p> and </p> tags. Block-quoting is done with the <blockquote> and </blockquote> tags.

Example:

 
<p><a href="http://soylentnews.org/~soylent+bob/">Soylent Bob</a> writes:</p>

<p>Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Curabitur massa elit, pharetra sed lacus vitae, vehicula porta elit. Nulla ac porta nibh. "Quisque adipiscing sem 'nisi', sit amet pulvinar velit vestibulum in", says Soylent Mel. Morbi luctus aliquet erat quis tempor. Nulla facilisi:</p>

<blockquote>Morbi leo purus, fermentum non felis vitae, mattis tempus mauris. Nunc bibendum neque non dolor pharetra, quis dignissim tortor semper. Phasellus sed nisl sit amet elit rutrum interdum. Ut rutrum pellentesque tempus.</blockquote>

<p>Integer id nisl vel ante sodales consectetur nec nec tortor. Suspendisse a congue est. Donec ut consectetur mauris. Duis hendrerit nibh nec quam consequat dapibus. Aenean luctus iaculis magna, aliquet aliquam nisi consectetur eget.</p>

<p>[ED's note: the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.]</p>

US/UK Spelling

The site is endeavouring not to be a US-centric site, and by doing so wishes to encourage members, casual-readers and interest from english-speakers around the world. As the dialects of English differ between the US and many other English speaking regions, it is essential that the site remains inclusive to all but provides clearly written stories that are easily understandable. Each submission contains 2 essentially different elements at the most basic level: the linked source material and the summary (TFS).

Linked Material

The linked material (the information source) must be in English but can be in any English dialect. It is reported exactly as printed to remove the possibility of an editor changing the meaning accidentally. Having two or more linked sources in different English dialects is acceptable.

Summary

The summary can be written in any commonly-used English dialect but must be consistent throughout. Other than quoted material (which is always quoted exactly as written) only one dialect can be used throughout the summary. Mixing US and UK spelling, for example, in a single summary is unacceptable. It does not have to be written in the same dialect as the source material - indeed, if there are 2 different sources it might be impossible to do so.

Headline Capitalization

  1. Except for function words, all words are regularly capitalized in headlines, e.g. "'Moon Made of Soylent Green Cheese', Says NASA."
  2. Function words are:
    1. Prepositions, e.g. in, at, and on.
    2. Conjunctions, e.g. and, if, and but.
    3. Articles, i.e. the, an, and a.
    4. Pronouns, e.g. who, you, they, who, and which. The single exception is of course the pronoun I, which is always capitalized.
    5. The copula ("the verb to be"), e.g. is, am, and are.
  3. But when headline-initial, even function words are capitalized, 'Is Soylent Green Made of People?" (cf. Story_Style#Betteridge.27s_Law_of_Headlines).

Serial Comma

In a series of three or more items, place a comma between the second-to-last item and the conjunction that follows, e.g. "Soylent Green, Soylent Purple, and Soylent Yellow" instead of "Soylent Green, Soylent Purple and Soylent Yellow".

This is commonly referred to as the Harvard or Oxford Comma, and it reduces ambiguitiy. It usefulness is often illustrated with the (non-Oxford-Comma-conforming) phrase "To my parents, Ayn Rand and God," as this sentence reads that the parents in question are actually "Ayn Rand and God". (wikipedia reference).

Dashes

Betteridge's Law of Headlines

Betteridge's Law explains: Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered with one word -- no. The use of such questions in headlines is a journalistic device that is used when the story has little proof, no basis at all, or describes events that did not actually occur at the time of writing, i.e. not news. This should be avoided whenever possible. Note: this axiom naturally applies only to yes/no questions rather than wh-prefixed questions.

Possessive S

  1. The possessive form of singular nouns is marked with 's, except for some archaic proper nouns that end in -es or -is, e.g. Moses' law (http://www.bartleby.com/141/strunk.html#1).
  2. The possessive form of plural nouns ending in "s" does not require an additional "s", e.g. pirates'.

Apostrophes

  1. Apostrophes are used in the possessive form of nouns, e.g. soylent's (singular) and news' (plural).
  2. Apostrophes are not used to form the plural ending of nouns, e.g. the plural form of apple is apples, and its possessive form is apples'. Apple's is the possessive form of the singular apple, while apples' is the possessive form of the plural apples.
  3. Apostrophes are likewise not used with decades, when written in numbers, e.g. 1980s rather than 1980's.
  4. The form it's is a contraction of it is. The word its, on the other hand, is the possessive form of the pronoun it. This can be easily remembered by comparing the other third person pronouns: he's has an apostrophe because it is a contraction of he and is, whereas his never has one. The same also applies to hers and she's.

Hyper-Prescriptivism: Split Infinitives and Stranded Prepositions

  1. The use of adverbs between the word to and its following infinitive is allowed, e.g. to boldly go is just as acceptable as boldly, to go and to go boldly.

Weasel Words

Weasel words include a variety of terms that can mislead and and deceive readers. Examples include use of: non sequitur statements, passive voice, vague expressions (e.g. "some people think," and "experts agree"), and adverbs that weaken a statement through ambiguity (e.g. "probably").

Source Needed

Titles of Works

  1. The titles of books, films, albums, etc. are rendered in italics rather than quotation marks, e.g. Planet of the Apes instead of "Planet of the Apes".
  2. The names of websites and products receive no such marking, e.g. "CNN reports that Charlton Heston has discovered the secret ingredient in Soylent Green." Contrast this to the following sentence, in which Soylent Green is the film rather than the product: "CNN reports that Charlton Heston has discovered the secret ingredient in Soylent Green."

Quotations

Punctuation marks appear before closing quotation marks. Example:

"Moon is Made of Soylent Green Cheese," says NASA.

Instead of:

"Moon is Made of Soylent Green Cheese", says NASA.


Punctuation should follow the format of presented material, even if it differs from source material. Example:

"Moon is Made of Soylent Green Cheese," says NASA.

Source material:

"Moon is Made of Soylent Green Cheese."

Editor's Notes

Editor's notes should be used sparingly. They should never be used to add the editor's opinion, that can be done as a comment on the story. One accepted case would be in notifying readers that a story was updated or changed, or informing the readers of important information ex: [Editor's Note: The live-stream appears to be inaccessible at this time.]

Editor's notes can also be used to link to previous stories on the subject or related subjects, where adding the links to the story would be obtrusive or change the submission drastically.