Introduction

The English language, like most languages, is a remarkable thing. In addition to the usual evolution that languages constantly undergo, English is the product of violent conquests and cultural splits many times over. The bulk of this language is Anglo Saxon mixed forcefully with French which gives the whole thing a sort of romantic germanic flair. This lets us talk about our beef coming from our cows without even a hint of the idea that maybe those two words don’t belong with each other.

Beyond that, English never established any sort of official “language police” as so many other languages have. English style and spelling evolved through basic market forces as scholars and scribes gave way to publishers trying to make their marks on the world. And though the English speaking world has settled on general style guidelines (“A declarative sentence should end with a period or, in times of great emotion, an exclamation mark.” is relatively uncontroversial), there are dozens of little corner cases where the experts disagree. And even when the experts agree, English still leaves room to play around. English is cool like that.

In the modern world, everyone can be a publisher. As such, like the great publishers of old, everyone should have an in-house style guide. This is mine.

It should be noted that this is a work in progress. As I think of things that should go here, I’ll add them. But it is in no way a comprehensive explanation of my personal style.

More importantly, I make no claims to actually follow this guide. As a writer who barely qualifies as amatuer (let alone professional), I lack both editor and proofreader. It’s just me and I do not possess the skills or mindset to make me good at either of those jobs. While I endeavor to maintain a consistent writing style, the reality is that I get it wrong more often than I get it right. So this style is the goal but it’s not a promise.

Punctuation

Do not use a comma to separate two independent clauses in a sentence when joined with a conjunction. Sentences have enough commas in them already.

Correct: I will go to the Apple Store and she will go to Best Buy.
Incorrect: I will go to the Apple Store, and she will go to Best Buy.

When listing three or more items in a series, use the Oxford comma.

Correct: The shipment contained iPods, iPhones, and Cinema Displays.
Incorrect: The shipment contained iPods, iPhones and Cinema Displays.

When listing two items separated by a conjunction, do not use a comma.

Correct: I recommend both Canon and Nikon.
Incorrect: I recommend both Canon, and Nikon.

When forming the possessive of a word that ends in “s”, just use an apostrophe. It looks cooler that way.

Correct: James’ computer is acting up again.
Incorrect: James’s computer is acting up again.

When a sentence contains a quotation, the punctuation relating to the sentence as a whole should go outside of the quotation marks. Punctuation relating to the quotation itself should go inside the quotation marks. For a sentence ending quotation where both the quotation and the sentence would end with the same punctuation mark, it is acceptable (but not required) to omit the main sentence-ending punctuation.

Correct: He said, “Hurry up.”
Correct: He said, “Hurry up.”.
Correct: Did he ask, “Where are we going?”?
Correct: Did he ask, “Where are we going?”
Incorrect: He said, “Hurry up”.
Incorrect: Did he ask, “Where are we going”?

Spelling

When referring to the popular British sci-fi show, it’s always “Doctor Who”, never “Dr. Who”.

Correct: The new Doctor Who Christmas special was amazing!
Incorrect: The new Dr. Who Christmas special was amazing!

When referring to a doctor with the surname “Who”, it’s always “Dr. Who”, never “Doctor Who”. Otherwise, that’d be confusing as hell.

Correct: Dr. Who says I caught something from Rainbows the Stripper.
Incorrect: Doctor Who says I caught something from Rainbows the Stripper.

The plural form of the word is “dice”. The singular form of the word is “dice”. This is not contentious.

Correct: I took my lucky dice from my collection of dice and rolled a crit. It was awesome.

When referring to something like Super Mario Bros., the non-word “videogame” is preferred over the more correct “video game” because I think it looks better.

Correct: I’m going home to play some videogames!

Similarly, when speaking of the way a videogame plays, the non-word “gameplay” is preferred over “game play” since I also like the way it looks better.

Correct: The gameplay of this videogame is both strange and unbalanced.

Another instance of this rule is the word “nevermind”, which can and should be spelled as a single word. This was conclusively demonstrated by Nirvana and now the two-word construction looks ridiculous. Don’t listen to your spell-check in this matter.

Correct: Nevermind the dictionaries! The first word of this example should never be split in twain!

Grammar

When referring to a collective, use a singular verb (unless it would be weird).

Correct: Apple has released a new product.
Incorrect: Apple have released a new product.
Correct (weirdness exception): The local police have taken on the investigation.
Correct: The local police has taken on the investigation.
Incorrect: The local police force have taken on the investigation.