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From the author of Tip 7: Pay Attention to Details

Tip 7: Pay Attention to Details

Do you spell the word e-mail or email? How do you represent time? For example, if it's seven o'clock in the morning, how do you write it? This is a matter of style, and you won't be faulted for bad grammar if you choose any of the following:

Whatever style choices you make, use them consistently. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." With web writing, however, consistency is seldom foolish. Your readers will think you can't make up your mind if you spell out seven in the first half of your content and then switch to the numeral 7 for the second half. If you use an initial cap to write Web, don't suddenly start using a lowercase version of the word.

Fortunately, you don't have to stop writing mid-sentence every time you need to make a style choice. A professional style guide can help you to determine the best way to represent almost any term or phrase in your web content. Here are a few of the more well-known style guides for American audiences:

  • The Chicago Manual of Style. First published in 1906, this guide is widely used, highly respected, and at 1,026 pages (16th Edition) is one of the most comprehensive guides you'll find. Chicago is written for a general audience. (University of Chicago Press, 2010)
  • The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage. This guide is used by writers and editors at the New York Times. At 384 pages, it's much less daunting than The Chicago Manual of Style. (Three Rivers Press, 2002)
  • The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law. Updated annually by Associated Press editors and used by newspapers, magazines, and broadcasters, the 2011 edition is 448 pages long. (Basic Books 2011)

If you're not following a published style guide, create your own. Any time you make a decision, no matter how small, notate the style choice and keep it in a document file. Soon you'll have a large collection of your style choices, which can be a handy reference.

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