-- KfK - 11 Dec 2002

Style Guidelines for Independent Media Center Portal Features (www-features)

IMC uses basic standards, with a few exceptions and additions. Here are some of the most common problems and editorial questions encountered.


Brackets: Used to indicate author's addition to a quotation, or the author's summary of a longer phrase that is being skipped "...his vice [that is, of smoking] should..."; "...his vice [of smoking] should..."

Colon: Capitalize first word of a full sentence after a colon: "I'm perplexed: How can we do this?" Lowercase if not full sentence. Also, unless part of a bulleted list, the colon should be preceded by a full independent clause, and should not separate a verb from its object. Wrong: "The community included: Catholics, Jews, pagans, and Unitarians." Correct: "The community included people of many spiritual backgrounds: Catholics, Jews, pagans, and Unitarians."

Commas: Use serial commas, including for the last in the series. Example: "Lions, tigers, and bears," not "Lions, tigers and bears." Also, a comma is needed in the phrase "Martha and her husband Joe" unless Martha has more than one husband. So: "Martha and her husband, Joe, work hard."

Ellipses: Use four dots if the phrase before and after the ellipse are full sentences. Otherwise, use three. "I am a full sentence....So am I." "I am just one sentence with something...taken out."

Quotation marks always go outside of periods and commas, inside of other punctuation, unless the punctuation is part of the quote.

Parentheses go inside punctuation if parenthetical phrase is part of sentence, outside punctuation if entire sentence is parenthetical.

Spacing: Use only one space after colons, periods, or any other punctuation at the end of sentences.

Dates: Use comma in month-date-year constructions (April 10, 1995), no comma for month-year only (April 1995). No "th": "May 8," not "May 8th."

Use space-dash-space for a dash when separating clauses in a sentence.


Spell out one through nine, use numerals for 10 or more, except for dimensions: 2 miles, 4 acres, 3 percent. Okay to mix words and numerals in sentence: "The community consists of 12 adults, eight children, and 17 cats." Use commas for numerals of four digits or more: 1,200.

Do not begin sentences with numerals. Either spell out or recast sentence.

Decades: '60s, not `60s or 60's. However, spell out if referring to age: "She is in her sixties," not "'60s."

Money: $9, not $9.00 or nine dollars.

Time: 8 PM, not 8:00 PM.

Phone numbers: "425-224-9080," not "(425) 224-9080."

Zip codes: Don't use the four-digit add-on (e.g., "98103," not "98103-4567").


African American (noun), African-American (adj.)

"Decision making," "decision maker" as noun, "decision-making" when modifying a noun.

"Childcare," "lifestyle" one word, no hyphen.

"Grassroots" (adj.), grass roots (noun).

Nonprofit, nonviolence. Put a hyphen after most other "non" constructions. Two hyphens in ages: "four-year-old."

Spell out "United States" or "European Union" when used as noun, abbreviate "US" or "EU" only as modifier.

Upper case abbreviations: Don't use periods. US, WTO, UNESCO.

Cybertalk: Capitalize "Internet," "Net," "Web." Hyphenate "e-mail." Always skip the "http" part of URLs.

"Et al." requires period of abbreviation (after second word only).

For -ed and -ing words where either a single of double final consonant is considered a correct spelling, use the single consonant version (e.g., focused, traveling, targeted).

Capitalization: Beware of overcapitalizing. Examples: Do not capitalize seasons (winter, spring, etc.) except when using as name of magazine issue (e.g., the Spring 1995 issue) or otherwise part of a proper noun.

Do not capitalize governmental titles unless preceding a name.

Do not capitalize "city" or "state," except when part of proper name for government (e.g., "I love Washington state, but I hate the State of Washington"). Lowercase subsequent references (e.g., "the state taxes its citizens more regressively than anywhere else in the nation.").

Do not capitalize government bodies in generic references (e.g., city councils), but capitalize when part of a proper name (Seattle City Council) or when referring to a specific body where the context does not require the name (e.g., "the Legislature voted...", "Congress is full of idiots"). Lowercase "council" by itself (e.g., "the council's blunder").

Remember to use adequate modifiers for government bodies with duplicate names. Wrong: "The Supreme Court ruled..." Right: "The U.S. Supreme Court ruled..." (there are also state supreme courts, city councils, state houses of representatives, and so on).

Do not capitalize parts of proper names in subsequent references (e.g., the Green Party, the Discovery Institute, and the Mississippi River become "the party," "the institute," and "the river").

Capitalize Earth when referring to planet, lower case when referring to soil.

Avoid excessive use of abbreviations.


Caption style: Always use periods, even if not full sentence. "Newt Gingrich, far right." Photo credits do not take a period.

Don't use periods in "PO Box" or directional parts of street names: "Spruce NE," not "N.E."

E.g., i.e.: Follow with comma (e.g., like this).

"However": Takes a semicolon before it and a comma after when it joins two sentences. "I live in a commune; however, I don't like tofu." (Or these could be separate sentences. The main thing is to put a comma after this type of usage to distinguish it from a different kind of usage: "I like theater; however, you spell it `theatre' in my country." "I like theater, however you spell it.")

Latin plurals: Treat words like media as singular nouns (e.g., "the media is...," not "the media are..."). Use stadiums, not stadia.

States: Spell out state names in text when used by themselves. Okay to use abbreviation when used in conjunction with city names, but not two-letter postal abbreviations. Put commas around state names or abbrevations when preceded by city: "The Farm, located in Summertown, Tenn., was founded in the early '70s." Okay to abbreviate states without cities only as part of proper noun (Wash. State University, Calif. Dairy Council).

That/which: Watch for correct usage of "that" and "which": "that" for restrictive clauses, "which" (preceded by a comma) for non-restrictive.

Titles of books, publications, movies, etc. No italics.

Extended quotations are italicized. Italicize contact information, bibliographies, citations, etc. at the end of articles.

IMC uses HTML coding to mark layout instructions in the text: and to designate starting and stopping italics, and for bold. Avoiding using underlines or all-upper-case words as ways to emphasize a word or phrase. In italicized sections, such as extended quotes or article tags, emphasis is shown by stopping and starting itals: , then .

Avoid invective aimed at individuals; focus on their bad choices, not them as a person. ("The mayor's idiotic policy," not "The mayor is an idiot.")

Be careful about including "other" when making generalized comparisons. ("Washington has more prisoners than any other state," not "Washington has more prisoners than any state.")

Always avoid alliteration.
Topic revision: r1 - 12 Dec 2002, KfK
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