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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There are many terms that can be used to describe the same person, place, or thing. Some terms, however, are preferred to other terms.
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.
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.
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
- 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
- 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)
- Heaven (proper noun describing a physical place)
- Hell (proper noun describing a physical place)
- high priest
- 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")
- 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
- Sacrament Meeting
- Sunday School
- teacher (when referring to the priesthood office, as in "the teacher's quorum")
- Telestial Kingdom
- Terrestrial Kingdom
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- 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:
- God, the Father
- Holy Ghost
- 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:
The following are common and accepted abbreviations and acronyms: