Buzzpedia:Style Guide

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Buzzpedia employs a Manual of Style to assist editors in creating a consistent set of textual conventions for Buzzpedia. By guiding editors as they make decisions about language choice, punctuation, and other issues of style, the Manual of Style helps to:

  • Make Buzzpedia clearly and readily understandable to both a Georgia Tech audience and a general audience.
  • Ensure editors write factually supported arguments
  • Ensure editors portray themselves as competent and professional, and portray Georgia Tech as a high-quality academic institution

The style guidelines below were developed via a two step process. First, students analyzed and discussed style guidelines from the Wikipedia Manual of Style. Second, they proposed new guidelines.

Contents

Guidelines Adapted from Wikipedia

Use of Contractions

In general, the use of contractions—such as don't, can't, won't, they'd, should've, it's—is informal and should be avoided. The use of contractions conveys a casual tone, which does not contribute to the establishment of the authors as professional writers. Readers tend to be attracted to a piece of writing if the writer strikes them as intelligent and fully competent, and lack of a professional tone causes not only confusion among writers and readers, but also poor impressions on authors. As a result of this professional tone, writers will appear to be more informed on specific topics and subjects, as well as more confident about their writing in general. In addition, this rule will help Buzzpedia to clearly communicate with its audience, as Buzzpedia will provide factual information that is written with confidence and clarity.However, there is an exception.Since primary sources contain quotes that have contractions. Quoting dialogues that include contractions is acceptable.

Contested Language

Avoid words and phrases that give the impression of straining for formality, that are unnecessarily regional, or that are not widely accepted. This rule refers to several mistakes writers tend to make that can be easily avoided in two different methods. One way a writer can avoid making simple mistakes in word usage is to find other words. For example, if a writer attempts to be too formal in his or her writing, the piece of writing may strike the reader as either ambiguous or verbose. Another method that can be used to avoid making such errors is to use careful techniques when using contested language; for example, a writer may do simple research before using words such as “affect” and “effect” if he or she does not have a clear understanding of the difference between the two. Misuse of these words can convey a non-professional tone between author and audience, which is discussed in more detail in rule one. Inappropriate language should be regulated as well, which will ensure the articles posted will be both more accessible and acceptable for our readers. These articles are written to inform readers of the important but less known parts of Tech; however, offensive vocabulary can push away our readers. When writing, keep all bitter words such as "swear words", derogatory names, and insults out of the articles. Even quotes that could be considered offensive may need to be limited if used.

Misused English Words

In order to be seen as professional, Buzzpedia must contain articles that do not misuse words. The misuse of words is very common in writing, but that does not change the fact that it is something to look out for and to do one's best to avoid. Many writers are guilty of homonyms, which are pairs of similarly spelled words, and many writers are just unsure of the correct definition of the word they are using. If a writer is not sure about the correct usage of a word it would be best for him or her to take a quick look at the List of commonly misused words. It is also crucial that peer review of an article takes place in order to preserve Buzzpedia's credibility. A list of commonly misused English words can be found here. [1]

Gender Neutral

“Use gender-neutral language where this can be done with clarity and precision. This does not apply to direct quotations or the titles of works (The Ascent of Man), which should not be altered; nor where all referents are of one gender, such as in an all-female school (When any student breaks that rule, she loses privileges).” This rule will remain unchanged in our Buzzpedia. Our target readers are everyone at Tech and the people who want to know more about Tech. We do not want to alienate a reader of a specific gender because our words reference another gender. We want to portray ourselves as people who just want to inform the general audience instead of writers who caters to a specific group of people. We should not alienate any group in race, gender, or even schools. Buzzpedia was created solely for information, not to make a point or take a stand. So I propose not only to be gender neutral but neutral in general, so all the audience would not have a feeling of isolation while reading our Buzzpedia.

First Person

There are only a few reasons one would need to use a first-person pronouns. When "I" or "we" is used in a quote it is perfectly acceptable and occasionally "we" can be used to refer to the earth as a whole, but context is important here as well as anywhere in Wikipedia/Buzzpedia. But other than those examples, there is rarely a time when a writer needs to use first-person pronouns. Writers on Buzzpedia are to avoid summarizing articles and incorporating his or her thoughts on the article, so there is not really a need to use first-person if one is following the other Buzzpedia guidelines. The main reason for this proposed rule is so that Buzzpedia achieves its purpose of providing information on Georgia Tech to Georgia Tech students, as well as any other professional audience, in a competent manner.

Article Titles

Article titles should adhere to the following guidelines in order to maintain consistency throughout the Buzzpedia:

  • The article title should be accurate and recognizable for the content of the article;thereby, giving the reader a clear, concise idea of what is in the article and what they can expect to read in it.
  • The article title should make sense when the reader is searching for the article, thus making the article easy to find.
  • Titles short be kept short. The shorter you can make the title (to a reasonable extent) the better.
  • If someone or something has a name they are better known by, but is not their official name, the article should be titled with the name that is most often used and understood.
  • Article titles should be all lower case letters, except for the initial letter and for proper names
  • Article titles should not begin with a, an, or the
  • Article titles should use the singular form
  • Article titles should avoid special characters (pluses, slashes, braces)

Section Headings

  • Section headings should follow the same rules as article titles
  • Section and subsection headings should be unique within a page
  • Headings should not explicitly refer to the subject of the article, or to higher-level headings, unless doing so is shorter or clearer (“Early **life” not “His early life”)
  • The triple apostrophes (this text is bold) that make words appear in boldface are not used in headings
  • Include one blank line above the heading, for readability in the edit window

Capitalization

Institutions

"Names of institutions (George Brown College) are proper nouns and require capitals. The word "the" at the start of a title is usually uncapitalized, but follow the institution's own usage (a degree from the University of Sydney; but researchers at The Ohio State University)."[2]

Generic words for institutions (university, college, hospital, high school) do not take capitals: Incorrect (generic): The University offers programs in arts and sciences. Correct (generic): The university offers programs in arts and sciences. Correct (title): The University of Delhi offers programs in arts and sciences.

Since most of our research will be coming from a university, it should be understood how the use of capital letters will be followed. This will help Buzzpedia users show scholarship and clarity when referencing collegiate works.

Links

Links should follow the following guidelines to be helpful and consistent throughout Buzzpedia Project:

  • Links should be inline with text (i.e., use Wiki syntax to make a word or phrase into a link).
  • Don't link unnecessarily; links should be relevant and add something to the subject.
  • Links, like sources, should be reliable pages that the reader should not be scared to click on due to the names.
  • The development of red links (i.e., creating new pages) is encouraged, as this will lead to further article contribution and development.
  • Priority should be given to internal, Buzzpedia links whenever possible.
  • Cite your links-tell the reader where the link is from,which individual,group,organization created the link.
  • Try to avoid citing links from paid subscription services because these sites are usually inaccessible to most readers.
  • Wikipedia articles can be linked within the text.

Images

Similar to links, images can be very informative and need to be consistent throughout or Buzzpedia:

  • Images should be a minimum of 250 pixels wide. Images will be a major source of information and having larger pictures will cut down on the additional clicking
  • A large image should be included in either a link or perhaps have it's own heading.
  • Images are usually copyrighted: make sure the image is owned by you or you receive permission to use the image.
  • Captions should be used, especailly to draw attention to something in the image that is not obvious.
  • It is preferred to use an image that is owned by the public.
  • Do not use images that you think may offend someone; chances are if you think it may offend someone then it will.
  • Cite your images.
  • Group images in an interesting way, make sure you do not "stack" the images.

Captions

  • Start captions with a capital letter.
  • Captions are not required to be a complete sentence, but should contain information such as the relevance of the image to the text.
  • Captions should be succinct and informative. For portraits and historical visual record of Georgia Tech buildings, name of the subject and age/year should be presented.
  • Try to avoid italicized captions,unless the words used inside the captions are generally italicized.

Paraphrasing

  • In order to paraphrase, one should take the content and put it into their own words. Plagiarism is never appropriate.

Quotations

  • Preserve the original text, spelling, and punctuation as much as possible, but if a change is necessary, insert an explanation within square brackets. If there is an error in the original statement, use [sic] to show that the error was not made in transcription.
  • Trivial spelling or typographical errors should be silently corrected.
  • Use ellipses to indicate irrelevant or unintelligible speech.
  • Avoid linking from within quotes. They become cluttered,violate the principle of leaving quotations unchanged, and will probably confuse the reader.

[3]

Quotation Marks

Quotations are a powerful tool in any article. They give a first person account of someone else’s opinions or thoughts on the subject at hand. Quotes can sometimes be taken out of context or misused in a way that removes the original thoughts of the author and turns into a biased statement by the author of the Buzzpedia article. However if a quote is used correctly, the article gains an extra bit of validation that shows the reader that research has been done and the article was written by an intelligent author. This is why quotations must be used verbatim how they are used in the original article. Even one change in punctuation can change the entire inflection or meaning of the sentence. The point of a quote is to include someone’s views in an article other than your own. If a quote is edited than the appropriate parentheses or ellipses must be included. All quotes should be cited correctly so that the reader can find the actual quote in the context the original author intended it to be in.

  • IMPORTANT: Quotation marks MUST be used to mark where exact words from a source have been reused!
  • Should be used to indicate direct quotations, certain types of works such as magazine articles, and around words that have a specific meaning within a specific context.
  • Should follow accepted punctuation rules.
    • Periods and commas should always be placed inside quotation marks.
    • End marks such as question or exclamation marks should be placed inside or outside depending on whether the actual quotation is a question/exclamation (inside) or the entire sentence is the question or exclamation (outside).
    • Quotes within quotes should alternate use from double quotation marks to single quotation marks.

Ellipses

An elipsis is used to omit material from a quote and is represented by three, or four if at the end of a sentence, consecutive periods (...). Ellipses are used by the author to convey the meaning of the quote more effectively, and allow for the omission of needless text. Correct usage will help the reader understand how the quote relates to the piece by highlighting the most pertinent information within the quote.

  • If used mid-sentence, use three unspaced periods (...).
    • Put a space on each side of the ellipsis, unless the ellipsis is followed by an ending quotation mark or sentence-final punctuation.
  • If used at the end of a sentence, use four unspaced periods (....).
  • Do not use at the beginning of a sentence.
  • Try not to use at the end of a line of text, for clarity purposes.
  • Only use an ellipsis as suspense if it is directly quoted ("Could he ...? No, I cannot believe it!").

Units of Measurement

  • If units of measurement are written in imperial, make sure to keep the whole article in imperial units. Likewise, do the same with metric.
  • To avoid ambiguity, there might have to be documentation of units in both systems, metric and imperial.
  • If symbols are used to represent units of measurement, make sure to keep using it in a consistent matter.
  • If the article written in imperial unit, write a unit converter chart at the bottom of the article for people only use metric unit.
  • Supplementary units is recommended to be integrated into the text.For example, "the athlete is 6.5ft(2m) tall" is considered more reader friendly.

Numbers

  • Single-digit numbers from zero to nine should be written as words.
  • Numbers greater than nine may be written as either words or figures. However, whichever method is chosen must be consistent throughout the article. Keep in mind that long written numbers (for example, two thousand twenty-eight) may hinder a reader's ability to swiftly read and interpret a piece of writing.
  • Instances such as time may be excused from this rule. For example, the time may be written as 4pm.

Acronyms/Abbreviations

  • In order to establish a full term, it is important to write out the entire word as well as the abbreviation of the word the first time it appears. [4]
  • Italics in writing are important for titles, foreign words, words as words, quotations in italics, italics in quotations, effect on nearby punctuation, emphasis, and some links. [5]
  • The only times acronyms should be accepted is if it is recognizable term for everyone, such as "PhD", which would be unnecessary to write out the full meaning. However, it is still important to write out the full title first and then state that it is also known as the shorter version. [6]
  • Also, since there are many acronyms here at Georgia Tech for various majors and buildings, it is better to state the full name so that those who may not know the meaning of the acronym will at least know what the subject is about.

Neutral Point of View

  • We should let our readers choose their own points of view rather than presenting them ours.
  • Articles in our Buzzpedia should be written in a neutral point of view.
  • Avoid using instructional or presumptuous language
  • Also, a neutral point of view does not mean that there is no point of view. Instead, we should present fair description for both sides. The content can contain view points from reliable sources but editors should avoid making presumption and taking sides.

Foreign Terms

  • If we run into some languages that are not in a Latin alphabet and we must use them to complete the Buzzpedia, must be romanized into characters generally intelligible to English-speakers.
  • If there is no common usage of a foreign language in English, then we can just use italics for that language in our Buzzpedia articles.

Complex Terminology and Jargon

When writing an article, we should take care when using jargon associated with Georgia Tech and/or overly complex terminology. If the reader cannot understand the meaning of a certain word or phrase fairly easily (using contextual clues and the like), then one should take care to either reword that particular wording or delete it all together.

Ampersand

The ampersand (&) is a replacement often used for the word and. Even so, it is almost never appropriate to use the ampersand over and.[7]

  • In the middle of a sentence & should never be used as a conjunction over and.
    • Ex. We ran & talked. vs. We ran and talked.
  • When writing dates, it is still inappropriate to use the ampersand over and.
    • Ex. We will be gone on the 5th & 6th of August. vs. We will be gone on the 5th and 6th of August.
  • The ampersand can, however, be used if present in a proper noun or a title.
    • Ex. I watch The Tom & Jerry Show.
  • The ampersand can be used with consistency in tables, infoboxes, and similar contexts where space is limited
  • Many times, when quoting text that uses the ampersand, it is better to replace it with and to keep consistency throughout the article.

Serial Commas

Buzzpedia should adopt the rule for Serial commas from the Wikipedia Style Guide. [8] "A serial comma (also known as an Oxford comma or a Harvard comma) is a comma used immediately before a conjunction in a list of three or more items: the phrase ham, chips, and eggs includes a serial comma, while the variant ham, chips and eggs omits it. Editors may use either convention on Wikipedia so long as each article is consistent within itself." The serial comma, however, can sometimes cause ambiguity. In such cases, the sentence may be corrected in one of three ways: use or omit the comma, recast the sentence, or format the list, such as with paragraph breaks and numbered paragraphs. However, if one chooses to add or omit the serial comma in one situation to avoid the ambiguity, it must be remembered to remain consistent throughout the article.

Guidelines Adapted from Strunk & White

  • Omit needless words. In our Buzzpedia articles, the reader does not want to textually rummage through superfluous words. By omitting needles words, a more “fact dense” text is created as opposed one full of needless, filler words.
  • Keep related words together. By keeping related words together, especially in mass text, the reader will have an easier time understanding the information presented. This cuts down on confusion and/or misinterpretation of information for the reader. This can usually be avoided during proofreading.
  • "Do not take shortcuts at the cost of clarity." Whenever a person tries to take a shortcut in writing, they are doing so at the cost of clarity. Authors need to make sure they make factual arguments built from all necessary information without shortcuts. When a writer takes a shortcut, oftentimes important information is left out. When information is left out, the article lacks clarity. Lacking clarity will bring into the question the integrity of not just the article a user is reading, but the entire Buzzpedia website as a whole. It will also bring into question the competency and professionalism of its authors. Authors need to make sure they are explaining things in full and not leaving a thread of ambiguity in the mind of its reader.

Guidelines Adapted from the Economist

  • Avoid stuffy or fancy language by writing in everyday conversation. This includes using euphemisms (choose deaf over hearing-impaired) and didactic phrases (like “consider,” “imagine,” and “look at”).
  • Avoid unnecessary words. Unnecessary words should be avoided to make the writing concise and clear. These words can be deleted without changing the meaning. For example, the word very can be left out from a sentence. Contrast the following two sentences: the omens were good; the omens were very good. The first one is more concise and clear, but they mean the same. The word very should not be used just to increase the length

Guidelines Adapted from Purdue Online Writing Lab

Commas

  • Use commas to separate independent clauses separated by coordination conjunctions. (and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet)
  • Use commas after introductory clauses, phrases, and words.
  • Use commas to set off non-essential clauses, phrases, and words.
  • Use commas to separate a series of three or more clauses, phrases, or words.
  • Use a comma to separate two or more coordinate adjectives before a noun. (But not in between the last adjective and the noun)
  • Use commas before beginning a quotation.
  • Use commas to set off all geographical names, items in dates (except the month and day), addresses (except the street number and name), and titles in names.

Citation Guidelines

  • Citations of the information gathered for our Buzzpedia articles should be formatted in either Chicago, Turabian, MLA, or APA forms. [9] An individual article should be consistent with its citations.
    • The author’s name first in the citation, which will facilitate its discussion in the text. If an article by a Dr. Smith was being discussed in a Buzzpedia article, in-text citation of “ according to Dr. Smith and colleagues” can be used to facilitate the flow of the article.
    • The citation should never use the et al. convention for shortening the author list. All authors of a paper or other source of information have contributed to that work and deserve credit.
    • In-text references should be formatted as a superscript number inside of brackets. This is preferred over the in-line number in parenthesis because it is not distracting to the text.
  • When directly re-using words from a source, these words must be marked off by quotation marks. Only directly quote where the source's exact words are significant. Otherwise, paraphrase the source by summarizing it in your own words. Paraphrase must be cited. The strongest text will draw from several sources to synthesize an account that makes use of them all.

Other Guidelines

  • Avoid vague pronouns. For example, "Sam and Dave went to the store. He wanted to buy coffee." It is unclear to the reader who "he" refers to. Furthermore, avoid using "this" to refer to vague concepts discussed earlier in your writing. For example, "The ancient Sumerians had a long history, vibrant culture, and wrote some of the earliest known literature. Due to this, they are still remembered today." would be better written "The ancient Sumerians had a long history, vibrant culture, and wrote some of the earliest known literature. Due to their cultural significance, the ancient Sumerians are still remembered today." In general, use the pronouns "this" and "that" with caution.
    • Also use "it" with caution. Avoid using "it" to refer to vague or poorly defined ideas. Only use "it" to refer to a specific object.
  • Avoid run-on sentences.
  • When forming the possessive of a plural noun, place the apostrophe after the final "s." For example, the shoes belonging to multiple doctors are, "the doctors' shoes."
  • Beware of overusing a single word or phrase in a sentence or a paragraph, which may sound repetitive to the reader.
  • When using a parallel construction, each element in the construction must be able to stand on its own. for example:
    • "He was known for his charm, good looks, and that he had a lot of friends" Incorrect
    • "He was known for his charm, good looks, and popularity." Correct
  • Set off parenthetical statements with commas. A parenthetical statement is any piece of information that could be dropped out of the sentence without altering its meaning.
    • "The Allied commander in Europe Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the invasion." Incorrect
    • "The Allied commander in Europe, Dwight D. Eisenhower, ordered the invasion." Correct

References

  1. List of commonly misused words (15 September 2010) In Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved September 20, 2010 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_commonly_misused_English_words
  2. Wikipedia:Manual of Style. (September 20, 2010). In "Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia". Retreived September 22, 2010 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style#Quotations
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style#Acronyms_and_abbreviations
  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style#Italics
  6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style#Acronyms_and_abbreviations
  7. Wikipedia's Manual of Style. (22 September 2010). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved September, 2010 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style#Ampersand
  8. Wikipedia:Manual of Style. (September 26, 2010). InWikipedia the free encyclopedia'. Retrieved September 26, 2010 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOS:SERIAL#Serial_commas
  9. (11 December 2009). In ACS Style Guide Retrieved September 23, 2010 from http://library.williams.edu/citing/styles/acs.php
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