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Monday, July 10, 2006

Consistency Is What Counts

Take some comfort in the stuff you don't have to stress about.

Editors don't care whether you use commas before the conjunction in a list (the comma before "and" in the phrase "meat, potatoes, and gravy"). They don't care if you capitalize "President" even when it's not in front of someone's name. It doesn't matter if you put spaces on each side of a dash. These are style details that someone at the publication is paid to change if need be.

Many magazines follow the Chicago Manual of Style (currently in its 15th edition). Most newspapers follow the lead set by the Associated Press. Online publications are a mixed bag. Publications also have "house style," where they follow their own wild child and do stuff they happen to like it--I knew a managing editor who chose to use an apostrophe in plurals of numbers (e.g., the 1980's).

Instead of worrying about what style a publication uses--
  • Spell everything correctly (pick a dictionary and stick with it).
  • Be consistent in how you punctuate and capitalize--this makes using "search and replace" on the computer so much easier.


Blogger Kristen King said...

This is great advice. As long as you're consistent and your capitalization and punctuation choices are clearly choices and not just what your fingers happened to tap on the keyboard, you'll be fine. It's the all-over-the-place punctuation and caps that makes people think that maybe you don't know what you're doing.


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