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MormonWiki:Style Guide

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Thank you for your interest in writing for MormonWiki.com and the More Good Foundation. This style guide was prepared to help you understand how you should write your content so it is professional and easy to understand for our various readers.

If some element of style is not covered within this guide, you should defer to the Chicago Manual of Style. (This reference can be found in any library or bookstore.) Where style issues are covered in that book and in this guide, this guide takes precedence.

General Writing Advice

As you are writing your document, you need to be concerned with the overall impact of what you are writing, as well as how you go about the craft of putting words on paper. Specifically, you need to be concerned with items such as intended audience, level, organization, person and voice, documentation and attribution, and tone.

Intended Audience

When creating content, writers and editors need to always keep their intended audience in mind. You should understand their educational, spiritual, and social level, and make sure whatever you write is applicable to a person with those attributes. If there is no clear picture of the audience, then the content will never "speak" to the individual.

The intended audience for MormonWiki.com content is a person who has the following primary characteristics:

  • Has never been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  • Is sincerely interested in understanding more about the Church and its people

It is sometimes hard for members of the Church to put themselves in the position of someone with these characteristics. Such an exercise, however, will yield the best content.

Level

There are many ways that writers and editors can choose to convey their concepts. So that the content at MormonWiki.com can reach the widest possible audience, you should make sure that it is written to an eighth- or ninth-grade level. This may mean that some concepts need to be reworded, but doing so will increase the likelihood of being understood by the intended readers.

Organization

If your document is over two pages long, organize it into sections. The easiest way to do this is to examine your document, and outline it on a separate piece of paper. The outline will help you organize your thoughts. Each heading in the outline becomes a major point that you are discussing. This outline then becomes the headings within your document. The text under that heading supports the point at hand.

Person and Voice

Avoid first person wherever possible. Do not use references such as I, we, us, or our, except in recounting personal experiences. If you are one of multiple authors on a particular article or paper, and if you determine you must use first person, it must be first person plural, not first person singular. This avoids confusion, as saying I or me would only confuse the reader as to which I or me was actually speaking. Instead use we, us, or our.

Tone

Your writing should be, wherever possible, light and interesting to read, without being flippant or disrespectful. Humor should be used sparingly, if at all. All instances of humor or irony should be clearly worded (and explicitly pointed out, if necessary) so they cannot be misunderstood.

Avoid talking over the heads of your audience (see Level). Never be snide or condescending to anyone. Wherever possible, avoid incendiary terms and tone things down—convey your message passionately, but without words that throw gasoline on the fire instead of encouraging discourse. Show your passion through your knowledge and your logic.

Do not "raise your voice" as you talk. This means you should only use exclamation points sparingly and never use more than one at a time. Also, do not write in all capital letters, even for emphasis—it appears as shouting to the reader.

Documentation and Attribution

As you are writing, document what you write. If you make a point—and particularly if you quote someone else—back it up with references. It is much easier to document your work as you are first writing than it is to go back and do it later. (See the Citations section for information on how to implement your documentation.)

The cardinal rule of writing is to never, ever (not even once) plagiarize the text of others. This means you should never use someone else's text as if it is your own. (If you do not provide a citation to someone else, then you are in effect attributing the text to yourself—you are plagiarizing.) Doing so ruins the reputation of both individuals and organizations. You can do a much stronger job if you read other's materials and, if appropriate, synthesize and summarize their words into your own voice. Then you can use their information as documentation for citations for the arguments you are making.

As you are doing your research, you should understand the difference between primary and secondary sources of documentation. (There are research guides available that can provide you with a refresher course, if necessary.) Your goal, whenever possible, is to use primary sources. In short, this means that you should not rely on another person's research to save you from doing your own. You must determine if you want to base your credibility and your arguments on the work done by the other person. In most instances the answer should be "No."

One good way to protect your credibility is to check all citations to make sure that the source actually says what someone else says it does. In other words, if John Doe quotes Joseph Smith as saying such and such, then you should look up John Doe's sources and make sure he didn't misuse those sources and that Joseph Smith really did say what Doe said he did.

Because of the transitory nature of information on the Internet, you should not rely extensively on information found on Web pages. In most cases information on the Web is secondary in nature. You can look up the references cited on the Web site and use them in your studies. If you do use a Web site as documentation, make sure you print a copy of the site. This will save you the frustration and potential embarrassment of quoting a source that comes from a site that is later moved or removed.

Word Usage

There are many terms that can be used to describe the same person, place, or thing. Some terms, however, are preferred to other terms.

Unfamiliar Terminology

Writers and editors should take care that they don’t use jargon that is unique to the LDS culture, but instead seek terminology that is largely synonymous and will have greater meaning to the intended audience.

For example, members of the Church talk about wards and stakes all the time; they are a part of our daily religious experience. These terms have no meaning to a person in the intended audience. It is much better to refer to a local congregation and explain that a stake is an organizational grouping of several local congregations.

Another example is the term Mormon. Within the Church, members seldom use the term, preferring instead to say LDS, Saint, or Church member. For those in the intended audience, the term Mormon is the preferred and most recognizable term. Thus, it is preferable to use terms such as Mormon, Mormons, or Mormon Church; this is what resonates with the intended audience.

There are many, many examples that could be given, but in short, our writers and editors will need to be vigilant that they use terminology that is familiar to those in the intended audience.

Ambiguous Terminology

People in different cultures sometimes use the same terms in differing ways. For instance, if you mention the word “boot” to an American and to a Britton, you’ll find they mean entirely different things. Thus, a Britton writing for an American audience (or vice versa) would need to take care to use terminology that doesn’t convey unintended ideas due to differences in how the terminology is understood by the audience.

It is the same with writing and editing content at MormonWiki.com. There are some terms which have a different meaning to the intended audience than they do to a Mormon audience. For instance, sacrament is a common religious term, but it means entirely different things to Mormons and those in the intended audience. It would be much clearer if a writer or editor were to refer to the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist. Using such terminology, while foreign to a Mormon audience, will better convey meaning to those who are outside the Church.

Again, writers and editors should be aware of how terminology is used by those in the intended audience.

Capitalization

In general, proper nouns should be capitalized. The following is an incomplete list of accepted capitalization of terms. These are provided for clarification and as exceptions to the general rule.

  • Aaronic Priesthood
  • apostle
  • Bible
  • biblical
  • bishop (when referring to the priesthood office, as in "the bishop is the judge")
  • Bishop (when used as a title, as in "Bishop Jones")
  • Book of Mormon
  • Celestial Kingdom
  • Christian
  • church (when referring to any other church, unless the word is part of a proper title, such as Catholic Church)
  • Church (when referring to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)
  • deacon (when referring to the priesthood office, as in "the deacon's quorum")
  • Deacon (when used as a title, as in "Deacon Carver")
  • Doctrine and Covenants (no ampersand)
  • elder (when referring to the priesthood office, as in "an elder of the Church" or "the elder's quorum")
  • Elder (when used as a title, as in "Elder Smoot")
  • fall (the event triggered by the disobedience of Adam and Eve)
  • First Presidency
  • General Conference (when part of the title of an actual conference session, as in the "175tht Semi-annual General Conference")
  • general conference (when referring collectively to the periodic gathering of the Saints)
  • god (when referring to any god not a member of the Godhead; see Members of the Godhead)
  • gospel
  • Heaven (proper noun describing a physical place)
  • Hell (proper noun describing a physical place)
  • high priest
  • Internet
  • Melchizedek Priesthood
  • Net (when referring to the Internet)
  • New Testament
  • Old Testament
  • Pearl of Great Price
  • president (when referring to the office, in general)
  • President (when used as a title, as in "President Grant" or "the President of the Church")
  • priest
  • prophet (when referring to the office, in general, or when used as a general term for a class of individual)
  • Prophet (when used as a title, as in "the Prophet Joseph Smith")
  • Quorum of the Twelve
  • Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
  • Relief Society
  • scriptural
  • seventy
  • sacrament
  • Sacrament Meeting
  • Sunday School
  • teacher (when referring to the priesthood office, as in "the teacher's quorum")
  • Telestial Kingdom
  • temple (when referring to temples in a general sense, as in "we attended the temple")
  • Temple (when referring to a specific temple, as in the "Mt. Timpanogos Temple")
  • Terrestrial Kingdom
  • testimony
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  • Web
  • Word of Wisdom
  • World Wide Web

Members of the Godhead

Nouns and names referring to members of the Godhead, either singularly or collectively, should be capitalized. The following are a few examples:

  • Christ
  • Elohim
  • God
  • God, the Father
  • Holy Ghost
  • Jehovah
  • Jesus
  • Jesus Christ
  • Lamb of God
  • Son of Man
  • Spirit of God

It is optional whether pronouns referring to members of the Godhead, either singularly or collectively, are capitalized. The only rule is that capitalization should be consistent throughout the document.

Remember your audience when referring to members of the Godhead. You should use nouns, names, or pronouns that will be readily recognizable to the audience.

Initials and Abbreviations

It is not uncommon for people to use abbreviations in their names. Initials or abbreviations should not be used for names unless that is the common appearance of the person's name. When this is done, the abbreviated name is always followed by a period and a space, as in "J. Golden Kimball" or "Hugh B. Brown" or "Wm. Johnson."

If two single-character initials are used in a row, then each initial should be followed by a period, but there should be no space after the first period, as in "W.W. Phelps" or "T.J. Cinnamon." If there are multi-letter abbreviations, then a space is included, as in "Ed. K. Baron" or "Wm. Q. Harper."

Whenever possible, titles or positions should be spelled out (not abbreviated), with the following exceptions:

  • Dr.
  • Fr.
  • Mr.
  • Mrs.
  • Ms.
  • Rev.

The following are common and accepted abbreviations and acronyms:

  • A.D. (with periods; see Dates)
  • B.C. (with periods, see Dates)
  • LDS (no periods)
  • D&C (no spaces or italics)

Numbers

Spell out numbers from zero through ninety-nine. Use digits for larger numbers, unless the number is an even hundred or thousand beginning with one through ninety-nine. Thus, you would refer to "ninety" or "fifteen hundred" or "five thousand" in words, but use digits for numbers such as "123" or "1,234" or "13,274."

Always include commas as thousands separators on any number greater than 999, unless referring to dates or parts of a book (volumes or page numbers).

When providing a range of numbers (such as page numbers or verse ranges), the range is separated only by an en-dash. (In Microsoft Word you can produce an en-dash by holding down the Alt key as you press 0150 on the numeric keypad.) Both page numbers in the range should be provided entirely, as in "423–429" or "342–351."

It is preferable to spell out ordinals, whenever possible. For instance, use "first" instead of "1st." In names of Church units, spell out ordinals. In other words, you would refer to the "Cincinnati First Ward" instead of the "Cincinnati 1st Ward." When the ordinal represents a number larger than nineteen, then you should use digits and common ordinal designations, such as st, nd, rd, and th. For instance, you would refer to the "175th Semi-annual General Conference."

Dates

Spell out references to particular centuries or decades, in lowercase letters (for instance "second century" or "the eighties"). However, if decade references require the use of a century in order to avoid confusion, then use numbers (as in "the 1880s"). In this case, since the decade is not possessive of anything, there is no apostrophe in the reference.

Use A.D. or B.C. (with punctuation) in preference to C.E. or B.C.E. The initials should follow the year reference, as in "the sixth century B.C." or "365 A.D."

Quoting Source Material

In general, verbatim quotes pulled from other material should be included directly within the flow of body text if they are less than a sentence or two in length and fit well with the general tone of the material being presented. When included in this manner, quote marks should surround the quote. Double quote marks ("like this") should only be used if the material is a direct quote. If it is a paraphrase, then single quote marks ('like this') should be used. In addition, single quote marks are used to enclose quotations within quotations.

Longer quotes should be placed into their own paragraph and offset from the main text. Paragraph-length quotations do not need to have quote marks around them. Any quoted matter within paragraph-length quotations should be enclosed in double quote marks, even if the source quoted uses single quote marks.

In all instances, quotations should include a footnote with a complete citation as to the source of the quote.

Quotations should not be italicized. Quotations should be transcribed exactly from the source, without changes to spelling, grammar, or punctuation. (The only exception is the appearance of quote marks in paragraph-length quotations, as previously noted.) If text in the source is italicized or boldface, then it should be in the quotation, as well. In such a case, the phrase "Emphasis in original" should be added to the citation for the quotation.

If a quotation uses pronouns that might be confusing to the reader outside of the complete context of the source, the pronoun can be replaced by the noun to which it refers, within brackets. For instance "when [the elders] gathered in Nauvoo, they were told to attend to their families." In this example, the word replaced by "[the elders]" was "they."

When ending a quotation, any final punctuation should always appear inside the final quote mark.

Use of Ellipses

Ellipses marks are used to indicate that material within the source has been skipped over when compiling a quotation. It is implicitly understood that the material thus skipped would not materially change the nature of the quotation, were the material not skipped.

Ellipses marks do not need to be used at the beginning of a quotation, even if the quotation begins in the middle of a sentence in the source. Likewise, ellipses marks do not need to be used at the end of a quotation.

Use of [sic]

Often the term [sic] (within brackets) is used within text to indicate that spelling, punctuation or grammar are incorrect in a verbatim quote. Occasional use is appropriate, but overuse can be disruptive to text. If use of the term might be distracting to the reader or make the reader think you are being condescending to the original author, then you should not use the term. If leaving the term out might make the reader think you are deliberately misspelling original text or that it might otherwise reflect poorly on you, as the author, then you should use the term. In many cases it will be difficult to strike a balance between these two general rules.

In no instance should you use [sic] to correct spelling, punctuation, or grammar to modern standards. In other words, if the original text was correct in all three areas according to standards at the time written, then it is not incorrect, even if it doesn't match standards followed today. In such instances, it will be of more use to the reader to explain the changing standards within your text so they can understand the original.

Footnotes and Endnotes

Footnotes or endnotes should be used to help document sources (see Citations) or to provide ancillary information in which the reader may be interested. If at all possible, footnotes and endnotes should never be over one paragraph in length.

If you are writing your article using Microsoft Word, use footnotes. (You should use Word's footnote feature to insert your footnotes.) If you are writing your article at MormonWiki.com, make sure you use the wiki markup code REF for endnotes.

Citations

Citations are used extensively in many types of writing. Exactly how citations should be constructed can vary widely, depending on the standards of a publishing house or periodical. For instance, some publishers allow parenthetical citations within the body of the text, as well as footnote and bibliographic citations. When writing for MormonWiki.com or the More Good Foundation, you should not use parenthetical citations. Such citations tend to disrupt the flow of reading. Instead, use footnote and endnote citations liberally, as needed.

In the following sections you will discover how citations should be treated.

Scriptural References

Make sure you spell out the names of all books in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon. For instance, you would not refer to Rom. 8:19, but to Romans 8:19.

If writing a Microsoft Word document, scriptural citations should be in footnotes, not included as parenthetical remarks in the text. If writing for MormonWiki.com, scriptural citations should be included as parenthetical remarks. In other words, the following is incorrect style for Word documents, but is correct for MormonWiki.com articles:

For instance, why not ask the prophet Ezekiel, who described his vision of God by saying he saw "high above all, upon the throne, a form in human likeness?" (Ezekiel 1:26, New English Bible.) Why not ask Stephen, whose last words were, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God?" (Acts 7:56.) What about John, who saw God sitting on the throne in heaven (Revelation 4:22)?

With a Microsoft Word document, you should instead pull the scriptural references from the parentheses and place them in a series of footnotes. This renders main text that is much more readable:

For instance, why not ask the prophet Ezekiel, who described his vision of God by saying he saw "high above all, upon the throne, a form in human likeness?"1 Why not ask Stephen, whose last words were, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God?"2 What about John, who saw God sitting on the throne in heaven?3

If the scripture cited is from a specific edition or translation of the scriptures, that should be noted in the citation as well:

Matthew 3:4, NIV
Ezekiel 1:26, New English Bible
2 Nephi 2:25, 1830 Edition

If the verse is from the King James Version of the bible, no version notation is generally necessary.

Citations to Books

How you construct citations to books can be confusing to some writers. The following elements are appropriate for footnote or endnote citations to book materials:

  • Author's full name. Name should be in normal order, first name first. If there are multiple authors, they are listed as they would be in a regular in-line text list (using "and" and commas, if necessary). A comma should follow this element.
  • Title of the article. If the citation is to an article in a book, enclose the article's title in quotation marks. A comma should follow this element, within the quotation marks.
  • Complete title of the book. Title should be italicized. If the book has a subtitle, it should be included only if it clarifies the title of the book and helps differentiate it from other similarly titled works. Subtitles should always be separated from titles by a colon. If a subtitle is included, it is also italicized.
  • Editor, compiler, or translator. Include verbiage such as "edited by John Doe" or "translated by Jane Smith." If this element is included, separate it from the title of the book by a comma.
  • Series and volume. If this element is included, separate it from the foregoing element by a period.
  • Facts of publication. This information is always included in parentheses. Consists of the city of publication (and state or country, if necessary for clarification), a colon, publishing company, comma, and year of publication.
  • Page number or range. Separate from the forgoing elements by a comma and follow with a period. Do not include prefixes such as "p." or "pp."

The following are examples of properly formatted citations for books:

Hugh Nibley, The Prophetic Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1989), 87.
John G. Davies, The Early Christian Church (New York: Anchor Books, 1965), 86.
Jean Daniélou, The Lord of History: Reflections on the Inner Meaning of History, translated by N. Abercrombie (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1958), 1.
W.L. Reed, "Asherah," The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible (Nashville: Abingdon, 1982), 1:251.
D.S. Russell, "Apocalyptic Literature," The Oxford Companion to the Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 34.
Brigham Young, "True Testimony, Etc.," Journal of Discourses, reported by G.D. Watt 6 April 1861, Vol. 9 (London: Latter-Day Saint's Book Depot, 1862), 5.

Citations to Periodicals

If you are putting together a footnote or endnote citation to an article in a periodical, then use these guidelines:

  • Author's full name. Name should be in normal order, first name first. If there are multiple authors, they are listed as they would be in a regular in-line text list (using "and" and commas, if necessary). A comma should follow this element.
  • Title of the article. Enclose the article's title in quotation marks. A comma should follow this element, within the quotation marks.
  • Official publication title. The title should be italicized.
  • Volume and number of the issue. No punctuation around this element, unless it is part of the volume:number combination.
  • Issue date. Enclose the issue date within parentheses.
  • Page number or range. Separate from the forgoing elements by a colon and follow with a period. Do not include prefixes such as "p." or "pp."

The following are examples of properly formatted citations for periodicals:

Wilford Woodruff, "Discourse," Millennial Star 56 (April 1894): 229.
Gordon B. Hinckley, "Daughters of God," Ensign 21 (November 1991): 100.
Elaine H. Pagels, "What Became of God the Mother? Conflicting Images of God in Early Christianity," Signs (Winter 1976): 293–303.

Citations to Web Sites

If you are putting together a footnote citation to an article on a Web site, then use the following guidelines:

  • Author's full name. Name should be in normal order, first name first. If there are multiple authors, they are listed as they would be in a regular in-line text list (using "and" and commas, if necessary). A comma should follow this element.
  • Title of the article. Enclose the article's title in quotation marks. A comma should follow this element, within the quotation marks.
  • Web site location. URLs, if accurate, should begin with www. If the URL does not begin with www, then it should begin with http://. (In other words, only include http:// in the URL if the first thing that follows http:// is not www.) Surround the URL with angle brackets (< >) and spaces.
  • Viewing date. Specify the date you last viewed the citation at the Web site. The date should be within parentheses.

It is important to note that proper footnote citations to Web sites do not contain page number references. The reason for this is quite simple: there is no such thing as a static page number when it comes to Web sites, as there is with books or other printed matter. Web text pagination can vary dramatically depending on the type of device used to display the text. For instance, if you print a Web page on one printer, the pagination will likely vary when you print it on a different type of printer.

General Citation Considerations

When constructing citations, do not include such words or abbreviations as Company, Co., Inc., or Press, unless omitting the words would lead to confusion with a different company or institution. For example, you would cite "Cambridge University Press" since omitting "Press" would lead to confusion. Likewise, you would cite "Deseret Book Company" since omitting "Company" would lead to confusion with the retail Deseret Book stores.

In footnotes, subsequent citations from the same work should be given a shortened form consisting of the author's last name, a short title of the book or article, and page, volume, and edition number as necessary to make the reference unambiguous.

Ibid. (no italics, but capitalized and punctuated as shown) may be used if a subsequent citation immediately follows a reference to the same work. Ibid. takes the place of the author's name, the title, and as much of the succeeding material as is identical.

Lists

Lists are used to itemize information for the reader. Selective use of lists can even help to break up your text so that it does not appear as dense or overwhelming. There are several types of lists you can use, each described in the following sections.

Lists in Text

In lists used within text (as a part of a sentence), you should separate each list item with a comma. For example:

Issues of importance include approach, tone, level, and documentation.

If the items within the list use conjunctions within them, then there should be a comma before the final conjunction that starts the final list item. For example:

Issues of importance include level, organization, person and voice, documentation and attribution, and tone.

If there are commas within the list items, then use semicolons to separate list items. For example:

Issues of importance include level, organization, and person; voice; documentation and attribution; and tone.

Bulleted Lists

Bulleted lists are used to itemize a series of list items. Each item should be relatively short, no more than five or six lines. You should use a bulleted list only if there are at least three items in the list. (If there are only one or two items, then the list should be reworded to be part of normal text.)

Numbered Lists

Numbered lists are only used if describing a sequence of steps that must be completed in a specific order. (If the steps can be done in any order, then you should use a bulleted list.) You should use a numbered list only if there are three or more items in list. (If there are only one or two items, then the list should be reworded to be part of normal text.)

General Formatting

The following sections discuss when and how you should use both italics and boldface type within your text.

Use of Italics

Book titles should be italicized, with the exception of canonized scripture (Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price).

Italics should be used for additional and occasional emphasis in verbatim quotes.

Italics should be used to highlight terms at their first introduction:

Mormons meet regularly within a local congregation known as a ward.

Use of Boldface

With rare exception, bold type should not be used in text. Instead, italics should be used for emphasis, as needed.