The Marijn van Hoorn style guide

Or: The typing quirk hall of shame

I have many, many quirks in how i use the English language — in fact, i've often made jokes about having to add something to my internal style guide. But recently, i realised it might actually be a good idea to start keeping one, so here it is! This document details how i try to write things up for this site.

1. Spelling

Use British English spellings: colour, not color.

Use -ise, not -ize.

Use Æ and Œ only when there is precedent for using ae and oe in modern usage: æsthetic and fœtus, but not æquals and œconomy.

Use diæreses when vowel sounds are separate and could potentially be confused for a preëxisting digraph: coöperative, poëtic, reünion.

IJ is one letter, and it should be treated as such: IJsselmeer, Marijn (with wide spacing).

Use em and en dashes for their proper purposes, surrounding the em dash with thin spaces:

Excuse me  is this the LondonManchester train?

1.1. Capitalisation

Decapitalise the pronoun i when not at the start of a sentence:

I thought i had left it over there.

Do not capitalise positions of power unless they're being used as a title:

Justin Trudeau, prime minister of Canada, met President Obama on Thursday.

For trademarks styled in all-caps, use title case: Lego, not LEGO.

Use small caps for government projects styled in all-caps: Operation MKUltra; Titanpointe.

Proper nouns, nationalities, ethnic groups, &c. should be capped up: Eswatini0, German, Black.

1.2. Acronyms

Use all-caps for initialisms pronounced as multiple letters. When they do not function as proper nouns, use small-caps: FBI and BBC, but atm and lgbtq.

Use title case for acronyms pronounced as one word: Nasa, Ukip, Unesco.

Use lowercase for acronyms which are pronounced as one word and have been fully naturalised as common nouns: laser, radar, gif.

2. Terminology

When referring to the country of the United States, never use the unqualified term America; that term can refer to the entire continent. Where one would normally use American, use US-American instead.

Use the singular they when talking about someone of unknown gender. It's that easy.

If someone uses multiple sets of pronouns, use pisswitch.js to switch between them.

After the first mention of a person, refer to them with a courtesy title (e.g. Mr., Ms., Mx.), unless their surname is either unknown or nonexistent. For example:

3. Markup

Use <em> and <strong> when a change of tone is implied; when the font choice is merely stylistic, use <i> and <b>.

<i>Homo sapiens</i> is a <em>very</em> interesting animal.

Use sidenotes for ancilliary information.1 If something would take up too much space as a side note, it's good courtesy to use a <details> element, like this:

Example element

Hello! I am an example of a <details> element. Pretty nifty, huh?

Make images as lightweight as possible, be it through gif dithering, jpeg compression, or just shrinking the image's dimensions down. It's the kind thing to do for people with bad connections.

3.1 Foreign terms

Don't italicise foreign words that have been naturalised into English, unless talking about them in a linguistic context: sushi, fatwa, hygge.

Do italicise foreign phrases used as english terms: je ne sais quoi, a priori.

Don't italicise words in languages that don't use the Latin script, even when they otherwise would be; the script change alone is enough to distinguish them: ξενία and пропага́нда, not ξενία and пропага́нда.

When writing something in a non-Latin/Greek/Cyrillic script, provide a webfont that supports it. Not everyone has the same fonts on their computer as you do.

People generally know their own language better than you; when romanising terms, use the romanisation system employed by the largest government or community of that language. For Russian, that's Gost 7.79-2000; for Mandarin Chinese, that's Hànyǔ Pīnyīn; and for Arabic, that's the UN standard. An exception is made for romanisations of Ancient Greek terms, which use these more Latinate conventions:

Ancient Greek romanisation table
Greek Latin Notes
α a
β b
γ g
n Before another velar stop, i.e. in the sequences γγ, γκ, γξ, γχ
δ d
ε e
ζ z
η ē
θ th
ι i
κ c
λ l
μ m
ν n
ξ x
ο o
π p
ρ r
rh Word-intially and after another ρ
σ/ς ſ/s
τ t
υ y
u In the sequences αυ, ευ, ηυ, υι, ωυ
φ ph
χ ch
ψ ps
ω ō
αι æ
οι œ
oi Word-finally
-ος -us Word-finally
ου u

4. Dates

Use Holocene Era dates, i.e. the Common Era year + 10 000 years: The UK left the European Union in 12020.

For dates before the year 10001, it's good courtesy to add the CE date as well to avoid confusion: Julius Cæsar was assassinated in 9957 (44 BCE).

When communicating dates in numerals only, use the format: The UK left the European Union 12020.01.31.

Otherwise, it's fine either way as long as you're spelling out the month: both 12020 January 31 and 31 January 12020 are permissible.

A stylish alternative when short on space is to use Roman numerals for the month, and the relevant astronomical symbol for the day of the week: ♀ 31 I 12020.

5. Faith

In the context of Helleniſm, uſe the long S (ſ) for s, except under the following circumſtances:

In the context of Helleniſm, make the thou – you diſtinction.

5.1. The Theoí

Typeſet the Theoí's names and untranſlated epithets in ſmall caps, preſerving the tone diacritics of Their original Ancient Greek names: Apóllō Acéstor.

This alſo goes for terms derived from Their names and epithets, unless Their names are alſo that of common nouns: Bácchanalian and hermêtically ſealed, but geology.

Typeſet Earth and ōcean in ſmall caps. In the contexts of Helleniſm and aſtronomy, Sun, Moon, and sky may also be typeſet as ſuch.

Nouns and pronouns referring directly to the Theoí ſhould be capped up:

Apóllō the Archer ſtretches His glittering bow back...

Do not ſet the names of non-Helleniſtic gods in ſmall caps:

Intereſtingly, ſome Ancient Greeks aſsociated Jehovah with Diónysus due to his aſsociation with wine and the myſterious nature of his cults.

Do not refer to a handſome young man by Apóllō's name, or otherwiſe uſe the Theoí's names as common nouns referring to people.

Do not typeſet the Theoí's names or derivatives thereof in ſmall caps when uſed as names for people:

The Common Era was devised by Dionysius Exiguus.

6. Changelog

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