Blaugust and Editorial Policy

The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.

James Nicoll

Another Blaugust feature, but now I have completely parted ways with the suggested topics and am wandering aimlessly through strange locations.

Blaugust Reborn

For some reason I want to write about editorial policy.  But not in any particularly helpful way I am sure, which probably keeps this post in line with the editorial policy here at TAGN.

At one point the LEGO Group had issued a set of guidelines for anybody setting up a fan site on the web.  This was ages ago, in the late 90s if I recall right, when companies were still suspicious of the web and worried what letting a bunch of randos talk about their product might do to their ability to protect their trademarks and such.

The guidelines looked to be a variation on what was likely their internal brand guide, a sort of document that I have seen at many companies, that makes sure that the company name, logo, and products are all used in a consistent and appropriate manner.

So it was full of things like the fact that the name LEGO should always be in all caps and should have the registered trademark symbol after it in all cases and that the company logo should always use a certain set of colors and always be at the correct aspect ratio, never cropped or stretched, and that you should never refer to LEGO brand construction blocks as “LEGOs” and so forth.  It had a bit of a thuggish air about it, the implication that if you setup a LEGO fan site and did not comply with all of this that they might come shut you down.  And hell, Nintendo has done worse from time to time in the name of protecting their trademarks and such.

Wired wrote an article about the whole thing and, on reading it I asked an acquaintance who worked there why they wrote out the company name as “Lego” when the company had, if not politely, at least made itself clear that they preferred “LEGO,” which was, if not an acronym, the conjunction of two words mashed together.  He told me, in not so many words, “Lego doesn’t write out editorial guidelines, so we’ll call them whatever we feel like.”

I don’t know why this little tales has stuck with me over the years.  That print media has editorial guidelines about usage is hardly news to me.  I had professors in college rant about correct usage.  I’ve witnessed holy wars between adherents of The Chicago Manual of Style and the AP Stylebook.

And “holy war” is the apt term, because either of those books, or any other pretender, is primarily a matter of belief as opposed to any objective fact.  The English language is chaotic and cannot be tamed.  But that chaos makes it a hell of a lot of fun at times.

So while this blog has a staff of exactly one person, that person fills all the roles.  I am writer, editor, publisher, and the person who empties the waste bin at night.  And as such I have, over the years, developed what I think of as my own set of editorial guidelines to which I attempt to adhere.

In the early days I wrote just to write and embraced the chaos.  But the accountant in me will ever show up and I began to organize a bit, working with categories and tags, because what is the use of writing something if you cannot find it again.

I also started in on what became recurring features, regular milestones on this journey through and around my video gaming life, the first of which was the month in review post.  That started as a whim but quickly evolved into a pillar of the site, at least for me.

My writing, the way I approach posts, evolved as well.  In the early days I wrote a lot of shorter posts.  In 2007 I wrote 490 posts that averaged 482 words each.  Last year I wrote 350 posts which had 932 words each on average.

I also started adopting some standards for how I refer to games.  At one point I decided that I needed to put game titles in italics.  Somewhere one of my English teachers probably sleeps a little more soundly.

I also decided to make sure that I wrote out the name of the game which I was writing about in full near the start of each post.  I have read many a post where the game in question is mentioned either as an unclear acronym or not mentioned at all, leaving me to wonder what the writer is going on about.  Sometimes I can guess from context, but not always, so I wanted to ensure that anybody who showed up here would not find themselves likewise vexed.

So I write out the full name, in italics, then use a short form after that, so World of Warcraft becomes WoW and EVE Online becomes EVE.

There are also bits of usage that are just because I like it that way.  I always capitalize EVE in EVE Online, mostly because that is the way CCP styles it.  On the other had Trion Worlds can spell out Rift in all caps from now until the end of time and I’ll never follow suit.  It just ain’t gonna happen.

And I always write out acronyms in all caps.  It irks me when the BBC writes out Nasa rather than NASA, like it was a word.

And none of it has to make any logical sense, as though much in the English language ever does.  It just has to please me.  And, likewise, what you do on your blog just has to please you, even if you don’t write out Nasa in all caps.

4 thoughts on “Blaugust and Editorial Policy

  1. Bhagpuss

    I agree 100% with all of that, especially the part about holy war. There is nothing in the whole wide world so pointless as trying to change the mind of anyone who believes in the existence of grammatical rules. You can provide all the evidence you like about when a rule was created, what the circumstances were and how many times it’s changed but you might as well be arguing evolution with a creationist. If someone believes you don’t split an infinitive because in latin the infinitive is a single word then, frankly, there’s no hope for them and you should abandon them to their insanity.

    The italicizing of game names is an interesting one. Early on in my blogging career (hah!) I decided entirely arbitrarily that I would italicize the first instance of the name of any game in a post and thereafter type it normally. I have no idea why I do this but I do it as consistently as I can. Over the years it’s expanded to include not just the name of the game but of zones within a game, the names of quests and pretty much anything that has a name. The wider that net spreads, the less consistent I am about it. i really ought to rein it in.

    As for tags and finding what I’ve written about in the past, I have now reached the stage where I find it quicker and easier to use Google. If I want to find out if I’ve written about something I literally type the thing I want to know into Google and add the word “Bhagpuss”. It works so much better than actually trying to search through my own tag forest.

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  2. Asher

    “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this greatland, a new folkship, dreamt in freedom, and sworn to the forthput that all men are made evenworthy. Now we are betrothed in a great folk-war, testing whether that folkship, or any folkship so born and so sworn, can long withstand. We are met on a great battle-field of that war.

    We have come to earmark a bit of that field, as a last resting spot for those who here gave their lives that that folkship might live. It is altogether meet and seemly that we should do this. But, in a greater meaning, we can not earmark — we can not bless — we can not hallow — this ground. The bold men, living and dead, who struggled here, have blessed it, far above our wretched strength to eke or take. The world will little write, nor long ken what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be earmarked here to the unfullcame work which they who fought here have thus far so highbredly put forth. It is rather for us to be here earmarked to the great task lasting before us — that from these hallowed dead we take increased drive to that belief for which they gave the last full deed of drive — that we here highly settle that these dead shall not have died in idleness — that this folkship, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that lawmoot of the folk, by the folk, for the folk, shall not swelt from the Earth.”

    http://anglish.wikia.com/wiki/The_Gettysburg_Speech

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  3. Isey

    I’ve reserved my tags for smart ass / potentially clever remarks that does little for the purpose of tags.

    I’m inconsistent. Hoping that counts as an editorial style.

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  4. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Isey – I am religious in my use of categories, but I use tags both for serious and silly reasons.

    @Asher – Make English English Again?

    Reading that made my brain hurt a bit. When I was in about fifth grade my grandfather offered myself and my cousins each fifty bucks for memorizing the Gettysburg Address. That was a lot of money back then, so I jumped right on that and it lingers in my brain to this day, so reading the the version you posted made metaphorical gears grind in my head as my brain kept trying to correct it.

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