Writing and Style Rules

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Rice University uses AP style. If spelling and usage issues not included in the AP Style Guide, consult Merriam Webster. When these sources disagree, we go with AP. Anne has a copy of the 2011 AP Stylebook and online access to the current version. Feel free to consult her.

Keys to Good Writing

  1. Consider every adverb and adjective in your piece. Does removing them dramatically change the meaning of the sentence? If no, they are unnecessary and should be removed.
  2. It is better to show than to tell. Consider “XYZ Corp is a highly successful small business.” vs. “XYZ generated $1 million in sales in its first year of operation.”
  3. When drafting your piece, consider the "Hey...You...See...So" writing formula. Start the piece with a statement/assertion/fact that hooks the reader (Hey). Make it clear why the story affects the reader and why it's important (You). In the body of the piece lay out the story and present proof points. The conclusion of the piece should answer the question "so what's next?".
  4. Avoid passive voice and helping verbs whenever possible.
  5. Only one point per paragraph. Each paragraph’s topic sentence should make a single argument. Subsequent sentences contain supporting data. Do not worry if paragraphs are short.
  6. There is no need to include everything you’ve learned researching in your blog post. Just include the evidence you need to make your point.
    1. Additional material can go on a wiki page, but don’t spend a lot of time editing it there unless directed to do so by Anne or Ed. It’s fine to just include these on an #internal wiki page as links with a short description of what can be found on them.
    2. Note we are not writing how-to guides, so leave out information on how an individual or small business would act to take advantage of/be in compliance with the law or regulation you’re discussing. This info can be linked on the wiki or with permission added to the small biz guide.
  7. Transition or signal words such as additionally, therefore, furthermore, etc. can be used, but should not be overused. Consider if you can make the same connection without using one of these words. If the word is not necessary to make the connection, don't use it. If the word is the only connection between to elements of your argument, make sure the connection is clear to your readers. Ask a peer for feedback.
  8. Hyperlinks should be attached to proper nouns whenever possible. Choose the noun that this reference is cited in support of. Proper nouns are preferred. Nouns are not available, action verbs area acceptable. Don't link more than three words unless they are all part of a proper noun, e.g. United States of America.
  9. Outline see Blog Writing Process for details.
  10. Include subheadings.
  11. When you’ve finished drafting a post go through the post word by word and ask is this word necessary? If the answer is no, remove it.
    1. Ask yourself “Can I convey the same information in fewer words?”
    2. Make it into a game. How few words can you use to convey a complex idea?
    3. Do the same when peer editing.

Style Details

  1. No serial commas (Oxford commas) unless necessary to convey meaning. For example, “Lena Dunham thanked her parents, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama,” needs a serial comma for clarification.
  2. United States is abbreviated U.S. in AP style except in titles.
  3. No hyphen in startup per AP.
  4. Health care is two words per AP.
  5. Write out an organization’s full name on first use, e.g. Small Business Administration. Acronyms can be used in subsequent uses. If these are not well-known, place them in parenthesis after the first use of the term. For example, female labor force participation (FLFP). Exception: if something is almost always referred to by its acronym such as DVDs. Consult AP style guide if you’re unsure.
  6. Decision-making is both the noun & the adjective per Merriam-Webster.
  7. Toward not towards
  8. “Whether or not” is almost never necessary.
  9. "This" needs to modify a noun.