Christian Digital Media Style Guide

(companion to the AP Stylebook)

..because characters is everything.

*For tone and content/delivery style, see the guide on Elijah Style Style & Journalism Ethics

Abbreviations — In digital content, periods in abbreviations should be optional, including Tweets, social media status, SMS (text messages), and online chat, but not titles. If the abbreviation is widely known the period takes unnecessary space. If the abbreviation is not known spell the entire word. etc, eg, viz, v, vs, ie.. are “known abbreviations”. Mr., Mrs., Sr., Jr., Dr., Rev., and other titles that precede a name abbreviations should receive periods so the reader is not distracted. Titles that follow a name, Ph.D. should only be used in an author line and not in article content unless it is the first mention and at the end of a sentence (to consolidate the period use). Within article content write “Dr. Lamvermeyer” in an author or quote citation or at the end of a sentence in article content “Famous things happen unexpectedly.” – Dathan M. Lamvermeyer, Ph.D. Or “We will notify the press of any changes as we learn of them,” said Dathan M. Lamvermeyer, Ph.D. (first appearance in article content). Or “We will notify the press of any changes as we learn of them,” said Dr. Lamvermeyer earlier today. Do not abbreviate names (William as ‘Wm.’) Periods will never be followed by comas., since abbreviated titles always have names after them (see Ellipsis). If there is no name after the title spell the word — okay mister? Do not use abbreviations that might only be understood by an industry-specific audience — v for Bible verse, vv for Bible verses (plural), ff for Bible verses following – in such situations spell-out the words. Only use the standing v for a case or debate, real or anecdotal, ie Faith v Works.

And — When listing two items, use items one and two. When listing three, use your preference, but be consistent throughout the article. Old school—not to mention classy as well—style is to list items one, two and three with three, simple items, but, with four or more, items one, two, three, and four. However, it is easier, in more recent years, to distinguish and group items one, two, and three when they are each separated by a coma. If you are using a complex sentence, and an “and” is part of a concessive clause or other interjection, use comas appropriately. Such and example might be: I was reading books one, two and its companion, three, and four, and then I lost count. If you feel this is too awkward for your own understanding, consider simplifying the sentence. When using an ampersand (&) you are trying to save space, so use no coma, whether three or four items, such as items one, two, three & four.

Bushisms — When in doubt, use words like “strategery” in quotes so people know you did not make a typographical error.. and to draw attention to them since, so long as that is your objective. If your audience should recognize the invented word, perhaps quotes would not be necessary because it would draw unneeded attention and be distracting  but you should at least have a good reason for thinking so if opt out of quotes on words that aren’t actually real.

But — almost always preceded by a coma, except when meaning “except” or functioning as an adjectival limiter. “..’twas but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business.” — Jacob Marley via Dickens

Church/church — Capital “C” Church for the invisible, universal body of Christ or by region such as “Church of Kansas City” without reference to a specific organization. Capital “C” as would occur in an official name of an organization, naturally. “Forrest Grove Community Church” Lower case “c” church for reference to “church” as an event or a place with a physical address like may be used similarly to the word “home” or “a church” or “churches” or when referencing a church previously named “the church” whether referring to the location or the group of people making up the specif aforementioned organization. “Do you have a church?” “We’ll eat after church.” “I left church energized.” “Call the church this afternoon, please.” “That church must reach a decision soon.”

Dash — Use when expounding or clarifying an idea. Use ellipsis.. for a pause for thought before continuing (see Ellipsis). In MS Word the dash takes different sizes depending on relation to other words. In email on on most website entry fields, as in MS Word, type a dash by holding “Alt” and entering the numbers 0151 on the numeric keypad. Many laptops have a numeric keypad worked into the letter keys for the right hand. Numbers above the letters will not work for this function. For a shorter dash use 0150. Whether to use a space after or before your dash is a matter of discretion, but should have be the same before and after the dash and your situations should be consistent throughout the article. Do not use to denote range of numbered items and in between, instead use “thirty to fifty-six” as “30~56″ unless referring to Scripture (see Scripture). use spaces in mathematical formulas like “2 + 5 = 7″ so numbers can be seen clearer and so they are not confused with web code language.

eBooks — As a general rule, eBooks and eBook should have the “B” capitalized, and the “e” lower case, even in titles and the first word of a sentence. This is similar to iPod and other such words. Actually publishing in eBooks should follow punctuation guidelines of normal print media, so many of the digital style options (such as Ellipsis, Abbreviations, and Punctuation) described herein, should not apply. Though it’s digital, eBooks do not need to conserve space nor do they need to be copy-paste-friendly, since their content, generally, cannot be copied and pasted. Spelling rules in this style guide, including quotes with non-real words and Bushisms, such as “smallgroup” or “strategery” should still apply because of the targeted audience.

Ellipsis … — In printed content, always three… In digital article content, use two periods.. or three… depending on your preference, but be consistent throughout. Always three periods… in the title or subtitle or catch like or other header because it is necessary to understand meaning. Three periods… in actual article content uses unnecessary space and does not contribute to reader understanding, which is why it should be optional for digital pieces. In Tweets, social media status, chat, SMS, and other brief excerpts, using two periods.. communicates the same message to readers in less space. In such blurbs that have a “read more” link, using three… is preferable because it’s a separate link and not actual excerpted content. Using three within article content would help prevent confusion with an abbreviation followed by a comma, etc., but with elimination of abbreviation periods, this is no longer necessary (see Abbreviations). Use an Ellipsis in a pause for thought or to be dramatic before expounding or delivering a thoughtful or humorous punchline. Use a long dash—that is.. if you are expounding on an idea (see Dash). I often use a non-dialogue quote at the end of a phrase before an ellipsis and the extra punctuation looks distracting, so I pick it up with the ellipsis rather than end with it. eg “because they are ‘busy’ ..and it is likely the case.” It’s okay, do it.

email — not “e-mail” as “email” is a known term and the hyphen is distracting. Use “e-” when inventing words or using other existing “e-” words such as “e-file”. When using a word invented by a company or person, spell it the same way they do. Lower-case unless in titles or beginning a sentence.

emoicons — are generally known, though standards may vary. Avoid picture files and stick with text. The idea is to insert facial graphics into alpha-numeric characters and symbols, not bloat files with images or obscure paragraph lines. This makes copy-paste easy while lowering bandwidth and disk space. Emoicons are best used at the end of sentences, as  a kind of punctuation 🙂 So, naturally capitalize the next word and begin a new sentence. This avoids clutter =] inside sentences that could cause confusion >< and syntax questions, >( especially when <html> and [CSS] code may appear in paragraphs. 😛 Combining emoicons with end-of-sentence punctuation. So, put a space after the last word and use it as a period 😀 That takes advantage ofthe concept, without a breakdown of digital grammar syntax standards 8-]

fmail — Email sent via Facebook.

fellowship — A noun, referring to friendly interaction with “fellows”. We do not “fellowship” any more than we “chair” or “friendship” with someone. We “have” fellowship—or “hold a” fellowship when referring to an event.

forerunner/forerunning — together as one word when referring to a person who lives the life of revival and ushers it in, comparable to John the Baptist with regards to the ministry that came after Christ’s ascension. Don’t put other words together, such as “forerun” because too much jargonese is hard to decipher. “Forerunning” is not a verb, it is a field of lifestyle or discussion, such as “Hospitality” in reference to hotel and restaurant services. A forerunner is a person or group of people who “prepare a way” or “goes ahead” or something of that nature.

God’s Word — Use “Word” in reference to the second part of the Godhead (Father, Word, Holy Spirit), though the second part may also be referred to by other terms such as “Son” at syndicate’s discretion. Some theologians refer to the second part of the Godhead as “WORD” but this is syndication, not academic theology. “Word” when meaning Scripture itself (Read God’s Word daily). Use “word” lower-case, unless at the start of a sentence, obviously, when talking about a prophetic word.

God/Godly — Capital for Christianity, lower-case for others. In reference to Christianity it is capitalized “Godly” even though many Bible translations and other writing standards may not do this. In reference to other religions, it is lower-case as “godly” just as one might refer to other religion members as worshiping their “god” even when it is mono-theological.

Interwebs — It’s okay, use it. Lower case is okay. Remember “Internet” is always capital.

outreach/reach-out — Reach-out is a verb. Outreach is a noun. We do not “outreach” to people. We “reach-out” to people at an “outreach”.

Quotes, Parenthesis, and Punctuation Marks — The purposes for cleaning-up punctuation within quotes and parenthesis have changed through the ages. In the past, with paper books and newspapers, it’s simpler to read if the periods and comas appear before the quote or parenthesis, “like so.” However, in the digital age of cutting, deleting, pasting, and copying, we need something that will “work” smoothly rather than merely “look” smooth. Moreover, it is increasingly common to use “quotes” to identify a term used as “jargon” or mark something as “a simile, metaphor, or other figure of speech”, rather than saying, “metaphorically speaking,” at the beginning of the statement. So, word-count is also a factor, especially in the digital age of counting characters in text messages. Use “quotes” with no punctuation to cite a word as previously having been used by someone else or “industry-specific jargon” as it helps the reader know that you are using fancy words with a meaningful background for the context in which you use them. For this purpose, put punctuation (comas and periods and dashes) OUTSIDE and after the “quotes”. This will denote that the coma or period is not a part of the concept you are citing. Do the same when using quotes for titles of articles or books or movies, if you like, or explaining the spelling of an exact name. (Article titles might be well if put inside quotation marks, while blogs, books, TV series, and movies may simply be capitalized without the quotes. This, however, is purely a matter of preference. See Titles.) For instance, the company “J L Steele Worldwide Inc” does not have a period in the title. If one were to add a period at the end in writing a check the check may not be able to be deposited. Using the old system of “always” putting a period before the ending quotation mark would create confusion in this regard. Therefore, only put a coma or period inside the quotation marks if they are an actual part of the phrase you are “clearly, poignantly identifying” or, in the classic case of dialogue. For instance, as Jane said, “When using quotes in dialogue, use a coma and space before the opening quotation mark and put the period before the closing quotation mark.” Parenthesis are used similarly: if the parenthetical remark is within a sentence with a coma (such as this one), put the coma outside of the parenthesis to denote that it is not part of the parenthetical remark itself. If it appears at the end of a sentence yet is within the sentence, put the period after (like this). (Only put the end parenthesis after a period if the entire sentence is wrapped in parenthesis.) Use “quotes, ‘within quotes’” in any order you like, ‘including “European” style, of you prefer’, so long as they agree. Inside of parenthesis, use whichever quoting method you prefer for effective communication as well as copy-pasting being as that (“this” statement may now be easier to copy and paste outside of parenthesis without having to “retype” the quotes) while (‘this’ statement may make it more clear that the ‘quotes’ are within parenthesis or other quotes, if the readers are American and not European). Let function be your “guide”. Some word processors change the “quotes” automatically (in ‘some’ cases) while many internet text editors do not “change” them. Make sure that whichever is used is uniform throughout a given work and preferably throughout the website, though, some variances may not be avoidable. Always use comas to separate concessions, interjections, and two adjectives/adverbs applied to the same noun/verb, as is standard, but easily forgotten.

message/messaging — It’s also a verb when you’re using a mobile phone or other handheld for an sms or

Scripture — Spell the full name of the book when first used with any chapter and verse, thereafter a two-letter or three-letter capitalized abbreviation of first letter and first consonant or last consonant in case of four-letter Gospel names ie John = Jn, Mark = Mk, Luke = Lk, and Philemon = Pn — Revelation.. Revelation 2:7.. Rv 2:9 (in order of occurrence). Semicolon to separate different chapters and [chapter:verse] references for same book or different books, coma to separate all others — Rv 3:3, 6, 8 OR Rv 3:6; 5:4 OR Jn 3:17; Rv 3:3, 6, 8; 5:4. With multiple scriptures use Christian-Bible order — Gn 3:1; Mt 5:10; Jm 3:3. Use numbers not numerals — 1 Jn OR 1 John, NOT I John. Don’t use parentheses when grammatically proper in the sentence — “..according to 1 Jn 3:6; Rv 7:1..” Use parentheses to cite without grammar — “ the teaching of Christ (Mt 5:3-10) that we must obey.” A parentheses for Scripture at the end of the sentence is the only time that the period appears outside of the parentheses to avoid confusion — “as He knew from the beginning (Gn 1:1).” Avoid using a colon : even when one normally would without Scripture, even when a book title by itself immediately follows or precedes, use a “long dash” — instead — “Here is one book to read — Revelation.” (This helps prevent confusion for dyslexic readers). “Scripture” is always capitalized, like “English” or “Indian”.

Semicolon ; — Don’t use it anywhere but in Scripture [chapter:verse] lists (see Scripture) or in long lists with simple items as per the example in the AP Stylebook chapter on Punctuation. It is grammatically correct, but its ambiguous meaning confuses novice readers and is only appropriate when using sentences too complex for a syndicate’s audience.

Sentence Length — Be short as possible. Avoid all compound sentences. They are not necessary. Comas for parenthetical remarks, such as this one, are fine. Elaborations that can stand on their own should not be compounded, this clause is an example of what not to do. Much media writing addresses the issue of brevity. We go one step farther to avoid long Apostle Paul-style elaborations used in Greek manuscripts. English translations break-up his run-on sentences which were more acceptable in Greek. We can break-up run-on sentences of preachers and prophets—even of our own thoughts. Long sentences, even with parenthetical remarks or concessive disclaimers such as this, are fine so long as they are necessary, pithy, and no part could qualify as a stand-alone sentence with reasonable modification. A syndicate may want to have their ideas grouped together—which is why they are grouped together in the same article. Make that article readable to prevent a much larger difficulty: grouping ideas that they can’t understand.

smallgroup — A “small group” (two words) is a group that is small. A “smallgroup” (one word) is part of a church or meets for specific fellowship regarding the Church. Different ministries may call them “cell groups” or “house churches”. In first mention refer to it as a “smallgroup” then, at the discretion of the syndicate, if using the term of a specific ministry, explain and use that ministry’s terminology with some amount of consistency throughout the remainder. Never start the article using specific terms of a ministry without explaining that you are referring to a “smallgroup” if that is what it is. “At Orchard Community Church, Andrew is a smallgroup leader, or as Orchard calls them ‘core groups.’” “Smallgroup” is the choice term since it was first called this by Willow Creek Community Church from which it became a widely-known concept with an actual name and purpose. As a result, most people, churched and unchurched, know what a “smallgroup” is—not everyone has heard of an “e-group”. Willow may not have spelled it as one word, but doing so helps readers distinguish jargon from description.

Text Style with punctuation — When using italics, or bold face, any punctuation following the different style, toughing the word, should agree with that style! Do not use italics, nor bold face, with the coma or period or exclamation mark not the same style!

Titles — In book, article, blog, movie, song, and other titles, capitalize the first letter of the first and last words always. Second through second-to-last words, do not capitalize articles (such as “a”, “an”, or “the”), demonstratives (“this”, “that”, “these”, or “those”), conjunctions, (such as “and”, “if” or “but”), nor capitalize prepositions (such as “for”, “at”, or “following”) when they are used as prepositions. If a preposition is used for “creative title” purposes, capitalize it as you like—the rule of thumb for this will generally ask if it is grammatically-correct in its use as a preposition. Research preposition lists often. Whether to use quotes in identifying the title should be a factor of whether you wish to emphasize the exactness of the title or otherwise to your liking, but in digital media, especially blogging, using quotes for titles may seem purely excessive. (See Quotes, Parenthesis, and Punctuation Marks).

Twitter — has it’s own rules for branding, which can be more restrictive than other social media services. “Tweet” and “Twitter” must always be capitalized, according to those rules. Other Twitter-related jargon, such as “twitterverse” and “tweeple” are not addressed and are probably best left lower-case.

Word Count — The Point column word count limit is 500 (because you must set definitions for yourself if you ever want people to hear you). Many publishers set the limit for a column at 600, but they prefer less. In Google Documents: Ctrl+Shift+C shows instant document statistics, including word count.

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