Style Manual

Table of Contents

1 Introduction

This document is a manual of how I style my writing: construct it in a way that I think accurately and precisely communicates my ideas.

1.1 Draft

This document is a draft: it is incomplete in one or more ways.

1.2 Editorial and License Information

This document was written by emsenn and is released as software under the terms included in the "License" supplement. Please direct comments to their public inbox or, if necessary, email.

1.3 Literate Programming

This document is implemented using the literate programming paradigm. The "software" being presented is included as sections of code, within a longer piece of prose which explains the code's purpose and usage. For a more complete explanation of my implementation of the paradigm, see "Literate Programming" in my Style Manual.

2 The Written Voice

This section contains a general description of the voice I try to use. By voice, I mean the mix of content and style that gives my writing its personality. I wrote every rule in this manual with the primary objective of clarifying my voice.

My tone might change depending on what I'm writing, but my voice should stay consistent.

2.1 Write Respectfully

An important part of my tone is writing respectively: making positive assumptions about the writing's subject and audience.

To treat the reader with respect:

  • I don't tell them how to feel.

To treat the subject with respect I:

  • I acknowledge people have qualities, but are not those qualities. (For details, see [Describing a Person](#describing-a-person)).

3 The Rules of Writing

The "rules" of writing are those relatively immutable standards which guide the construction of a clause or sentence. I call them rules because that's what everyone else seems to call them. Personally, I don't think they should be viewed that strictly.

3.1 Triage

3.2 Rules of Grammar

3.3 Rules of Punctuation

3.3.1 Rules of Spelling and the Treatment of Specific Words

  1. Spelling
    1. UK or US?
  2. Noun Style Guide
    1. Pronouns
      1. Gender

        I hate that there needs to be this section but there does.

    2. Proper Noun Style Guide
      1. Specific Proper Noun Style Guide

        This section contains how to write specific proper nouns. It is simply a list of proper nouns that Gill and Sennhauser has found itself writing several times, so wanted to establish a precise styling for.

        Noun Notes
        Gill and Sennhauser no ampersand
        Org-mode not "Mode"
        emsenn not captialised
    3. Collective Noun Style Guide
      singular noun formal collective noun(s) comedic collective noun(s)
      congressperson members of congress a swamp
      yak cabinet, herd tangle, gridlock
      lawyer huddle, group tangle
  3. Verb Style Guide
    1. Verb Specifications
      1. "To," not "in order to," or "as a way to,"
      2. "Also," not "in addition"
      3. remove, not extract, eliminate, take away

        I mean, unless those are what make more sense.

      4. use

        Normally, you should use "use" in your sentences, unless you're speaking of something that is being used in an unusual way, then you can say utilize. But you should probably still say use.

      5. method or methodology

        Usually method, unless it's not.

  4. Contraction Style Guide

    For my personal tone, I should:

    • Use common contractions:
      • it's
      • you're
      • that's
      • don't

    In all writing, I should:

    • Never mix contractions and their full form in the same piece. This is bad: If you don't secure the hatch, you cannot proceed with decompression.
    • Never form contractions from a noun and verb. This is bad: the client's almost here.

    Use common contractions, such as it’s, you’re, that's, and don’t, to create a friendly, informal tone.

    Don't mix contractions and their spelled-out equivalents in UI text. For example, don’t use can’t and cannot in the same UI.

    Never form a contraction from a noun and a verb, such as emsenn’s developing a lot of new cloud services.

    Avoid ambiguous contractions, such as there’d, it’ll, and they’ll.

  5. Adverb Style Guide
    1. Forbidden Adverbs

      Obviously not forbidden, but, avoid them.

      Adverb Suggested alternative
      clearly Drop it. If the sentence feels barren without it, maybe it's not that clear and you should rephrase.
      completely Whatever it did, it did it. You only need to specify if it was incomplete.
      interestingly Leave it to your reader to decide if they're interested

      Avoid vague adverbs:

      • clearly
      • completely
      • exceedingly
      • excellent
      • extremely
      • fairly
      • few
      • huge
      • interestingly
      • largely
      • literally
      • many
      • mostly
      • quite
      • relatively
      • remarkably
      • several
      • significantly
      • substantially
      • surprisingly
      • tiny
      • various
      • vast
      • very
  6. Adjective Style Guide
    1. Order of Adjectives
      1. List of the Order of Adjectives

        Adjectives should occur be written in the following order:

        1. Quantity: many, seventeen, a few
        2. Opinion: interesting, good, gorgeous
        3. Size: big, narrow, tall
        4. Quality: broken, uncut, smooth
        5. Shape: square, rotund, triangular
        6. Age: 12-year-old, young, elderly
        7. Color: cerulean, green, pink
        8. Origin: English, Roman, Argentinian
        9. Material: Wood, aluminium, concrete
        10. Type: U-shaped, professional, engineer's
        11. Purpose: cleaning, camping, baking
      2. Superseding Rules to the Order of Adjectives
        • If you've got something that might be a reduplicative (hocus-pocus, mama), it might be worth changing the order to give the noun phrase a better meter. The chief example of this is the big bad wolf.
        • Modifiers to an adjective should directly precede them in the phrase. This is most important for inserting a negation - that is, making sure to write, "there were several not calm individuals gathered at the gates." /(Note "not calm" would more properly be "excited," or a more appropriate positive adjective, but "not calm" is more suited for the piece. This demonstrates that even when you violate some rules to achieve the proper voice and tone, you don't suddenly throw out the others.)
      3. Examples from Literature
        • "It was cold, bleak, biting weather," in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
        • "He's an extraordinary looking man," in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
        • "And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor," in The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
      4. Examples from Our Portfolio

        Coming soon - just as soon as we have a portfolio!

    2. Adjective Specifications
      1. Apologise Adjective Specification
        Adjective Meaning
        formal An apology given with the relevant authority of the apologizer.
        sincere An apology issued from the individual person who is the apologizer.
        courteous An apology issued as a social habit.
    3. Describing a Person
      1. Describing a part of their identity.
        Identity Phrasing
        Member of a racially marginalized ethnicity person of color
  7. Special Words Style Guide
    1. Reduplicatives

      Reduplicatives are words like mama, mish-mash, or bang-bang

3.3.2 Rules of Writing Titles, Names, and Proper Terms

3.3.3 Rules of Writing Numbers and Mathematics

3.3.4 Rules of Abbreviations and Jargon

3.3.5 Rules of Quotations and Dialog

  • When using quotes "improperly":
    • When using a specific term literally or as a strong metaphor, use "double-quotes".
    • When using a specific term as a loose analogy, use 'single-quotes'.

3.3.6 Rules of Phrases and Sentence Construction

  1. Phrasing Style Guide
    1. Avoidable Cliches
      • not rocket science
      • isn't rocket science
      • outside the box

3.3.7 Rules of Colors and Sensory Descriptions

  • Use the web standard names
  • If sensation is important, treat it like clues in a mystery: provide 3.

3.4 Rules for Words

3.4.1 Centuries

centuries a period of time of 200 or more years
Centuries a period of time spanning multiple Centuries

bad: "silver compounds have been used in film for Centuries." good: "the use of silver compounds in film has spanned Centuries"

The implication here is the 18th Century is a proper noun, going against more contemporary conventions, but, I agree with the reasoning that brought me to it, so I'm going to adhere to it.

(Credit to for inspiring this rule.

3.5 Structuring Text

3.5.1 Structuring a Sentence

3.5.2 Structuring a List

3.5.3 Structuring a Paragraph

3.5.4 Structuring a Piece

  1. Sections, chapters, parts? How to use what?

3.5.5 Guidelines for Determining Structure

This section contains guidelines for determining how you should structure a piece of writing, for example a short list of software dependencies the reader will need to install.

3.6 Tone

Tone is that variable element of writing which conveys the piece's attitude and intention. Word choice, sentence and paragraph structure, layout, and other attributes all factor into defining a pieces tone.

I find it most helpful to define a piece's tone with adjectives, such as formal, colloquial, or emotional. When creating a piece, I record these as properties, sorted from highest to lowest importance. That is, when two tone adjectives have contradicting rules, the one written first is the one whose rules are followed.

3.6.1 Adjectives

  1. Authentic
  2. Colloquial
  3. Emotional
  4. Formal
  5. Natural
  6. Sophisticated

3.7 Writing for Content Type

3.7.1 Fiction Writing

  1. Mysteries
    • Always give a clue to a reader three ways, and always give the reader three clues.

3.7.2 Marketing Writing

  1. High-End Hotel Description Writing

    The standard tone is sophisticated, natural, and authentic.

  2. Online Landing Page For Service
    1. Structure
      • Headline
      • Proposition
      • Exchanged utility
      • Explanation of Fulfillment
      • Social Proof
      • Closing Argument
      • CTA
  3. Sales Letter

3.7.3 Technical Writing

  1. Guide for Writing Instructions
  2. Guide for Writing Training Procedures
    • Procedures should be written to the trainee: you're encouraged to use second-person voicing to give direct instructions.
  3. Literate Programming

3.8 Rules of Publishing

3.8.1 Formatting

  1. PDF
  2. HTML
  3. Formatting by Content Type

3.8.2 Licensing ::

3.9 Writing Training and Exercises

3.9.1 About this Section

This section (is in early development and) contains instructions on training staff in how to write.

3.9.2 Writing Flow Training

This training (is in early development and) will teach you how to write a piece, from assignment to submission.

  1. Prerequisites

    This training assumes you have completed the following trainings

  2. Instructions

    This section (is in early development and) contains the individual lessons for this training.

    1. Writing Flow, Lesson One: The Assignment

      This lesson (is in early development and) will teach you about assignments, the unit of work for the writing necessary to accomplish an objective. Some examples of assignments are:

      • a bundle of pieces for a client.
      • a single piece written as a bid for client.
      • a series of emails for an internal marketing campaign.
      1. Assignment Properties

        Assignment properties are standardized pieces of information about an assignment. Assignment properties include things like the piece's length requirements and its tone. Assignment properties are located in three places, and are inherited on-top of each other in this order:

        • First, the assignment should have whatever properties are in the Assignment Template.
        • Second, the assignment should have whatever properties are recommended by the appropriate style guide.
        • Finally, the assignment may include its own properties.

        Here's an example of what an assignment's properties might look like:

        :minimum-length: 700
        :recommended-length: 900
        :max-length: 1000
        :tone: sophisticated terse

3.9.3 Assignment Research Training

This section (is in early development and) will teach you how to conduct research for a writing assignment.

3.9.4 High-End Hotel Description Writing Training

This training (is in early development and) will teach you how to write descriptions for high-end hotels.

  1. Prerequisites

    This training assumes you have completed the following trainings: -Writing Flow Training

  2. Instructions
    1. High-End Hotel Description Writing, Lesson One: Interpretting the Assignment

      This lesson (is in early development and) will teach you how to interpret an assignment.

      Assignments are kept in the Writing Assignments lesson's assignment is specifically. You may notice the assignment is brief: most assignments will include relatively few guidelines, and will rely on your training and descretion as a writer.

    2. High-End Hotel Description Writing, Lesson Two: Tone and Style

      The tone for this piece should be sophisticated while remaining natural and authentic. (Remember to check the section for guidance on these terms.)

      The reader should be addressed in second-person plural, to connect them to the hotel and "travel" through the article. While it's appropriate to emphasize the luxury of a 5-star hotel, do not over-sell a 3-star hotel.

      The following should be applied over your assignment specification:

      :tone: sophisticated natural authentic :perspective: third
      :address: second-person plural
    3. High-End Hotel Description Writing, Lesson Three: Structure

      Expert opinion (15 words exactly), in the form of a quote, given in the hotel brief. E.g. Tom Gill, London: “A contemporary hotel which provides tranquillity right in the heart of London's historical city centre.”

      We love (80 words) in a list form

      This highlights why the expert has chosen this offer, explaining what they loved about the hotel and the destination. There should be 4 or 5 ‘We Love’ points which are communicated in the hotel brief.

      Don’t hesitate to add personal touches to the points, e.g. complimentary breakfasts: give examples of what you can eat, where you can eat it.

    4. High-End Hotel Description Writing, Advanced Lesson: Tom's Musings

      Think of some USPs (unique selling points) that help the hotel stand out. Maybe it's close to the beach or has a spa facility, the most important thing is drawing in the reader immediately. Don’t forget to mention the location of the establishment, the number of stars, the surrounding areas and the style/architecture of the place.

      Example: “In Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, where the Mediterranean Sea and the Rhône Delta meet, one can experience traditional atmosphere and spectacular surroundings. The 5-star hotel, Les Arnelles, is a charming building defined by a harmonious relationship with the great outdoors, both inside and out. Its balance of contemporary and natural aesthetics firmly roots the hotel as the standout place to stay.”

    5. High-End Hotel Description Writing, Advanced Lesson: Room Descriptions

      For each room, write a title with the name of the room included and the size in brackets. Don’t hesitate to reiterate the type of person who could benefit from this room (family, couple). Describe the benefits of the room: the decoration, the surrounding area, etc.

      Mention facilities (complimentary or optional), size, view, style, who can stay (no. of adults/children, babies allowed or not).

      Example: Beach Front Villas (95 m²): “Situated directly on the beach, these villas are ideal for a trip with the whole family; up to two adults and two children can comfortably stay here. You also have direct access to the beach and swimming pool; putting paradise outside your hotel door."

3.9.5 Writing Training

  1. Creative Writing Training
    1. Writing Prompts
      1. Writing Prompt: Force a Villian on a Vacation

        You have the opportunity to take someone you dislike - fictional or real - and send then anyplace you choose - real, on earth. You have now intercepted a post card from this person sent back to their associates. What does it say?

      2. Writing Prompt: You're a Disgruntled Baby

        Continue this sentence: "I know I'm only 20 months old, but I don't think it's right that my parents…"

      3. Writing Prompt: You've Won!

        Continue this sentence: "When I received the letter, I almost threw it away. It looked like a scam. When I opened it, it definitely looked like a scam. No one just gives this sort of thing away. But here I am, watching the delivery crew drop off a brand new…"

      4. Writing Prompt: Give Them a Condiment
        • [ ] Think of three fictional characters and write them down:
        • In that order, describe each - in a complimentary manner - by comparing them to the following condiment:
          • Ketchup
          • Mayonnaise
          • Peanut Sauce
  2. Training exercises
    1. Word Substitution and Sentence Reconstruction Training Exercises
      1. Word Substitution and Sentence Reconstruction Exercise: Write Around Character Replacements
        • [ ] Go to Wikipedia and find a random article.
        • [ ] Write 150 words about the topic. Choose your own writing type and tone.
        • [ ] In your piece, use the table below to replace characters. For each row in the column, go to whatever character position is suggested, and replace it with the suggested character. Rewrite the text to make sense around the character, replacing words or sentences as needed, while keeping the document truthful to the Wikipedia article on which it is based - and keeping the characters in the right position!
        12 e
        88 p
        156 i
        287 o
      2. Word Substitution and Sentence Reconstruction Exercise: Konami Code

        Like "Write Around Character Replacements", but with the Konami Code.

    2. Comparative Writing Training Exercises
      1. Comparative Writing Exercise: Neither Slinky nor Scarf

        Describe a snake by writing the ways in which it is unlike a slinky and scarf, but you may not directly mention the snake, slinkies, or scarves.

4 Supplements

4.1 License

Created: 2019-04-29 Mon 01:20