Style Guide

Table of Contents:

  1. Spoiler Policy
  2. Article Must Have's
  3. Article Images
  4. Search Engine Optimization
  5. Formatting
  6. Attribution and External Linking
  7. Usage and Style
  8. Style Specifics
  9. Common Errors
  10. Grammatical Errors
  11. Spelling and Usage
  12. Further Reading


Spoiler Policy:

It's impossible to write reviews, or pieces about media more broadly, while having a strict policy of avoiding spoilers of any kind. Trying to do so needlessly restricts the kinds of things you can say about the work. You do want to be prudent, though; a reader is likely to be trying to decide whether to shell out money to see or read the thing you're reviewing, so please do avoid big spoilers. As an illustrative example: someone reviewing The Empire Strikes Back on its original release would have a hard and unnecessary job avoiding mentioning that the bad guys from the previous movie aren't all gone (it's right there in the title, after all). He would not do wrong to mention that Darth Vader has survived and perhaps tease that he has a huge secret to reveal. But woe betide the writer who, in 1980, reveals that secret itself in his review!

Ultimately your own judgement must prevail. Ask yourself: "would knowing this fact ahead of time actually spoil my enjoyment or appreciation of the work?", and err on the side of caution. Lest this sound overly patronising, I knew a professional journalist who thought it would be a good idea to spoil that the protagonist in a certain movie died at the end, a good month before its premiere, on the nightly news; and another who saw nothing wrong with spoiling the ending of a new Doctor Who episode on the last item of a news broadcast which was directly followed — on the same channel — by the episode itself. Don't be that person.
If a particular episode or issue is especially spoileriffic, and/or you can't say the things you want to say about it without massive spoilers, please use "[SPOILERS AHEAD]" in bold before the section in which they appear, and "[SPOILERS END HERE]" where it's safe to start reading again, if applicable. Specify if the spoiler is not strictly or solely for the work discussed; for example, "[SPOILERS FOR NON-BOOK-READERS AHEAD]" for an adaptation, or "[SPOILERS FOR AGENT CARTER AHEAD]" in a review of another show set in the Marvel universe. Even if you're doing this, avoid using illustrations containing the spoilers; it's much easier to avoid reading a spoiler than to avoid seeing it.

Must Haves:

Article Length:

Articles must be a minimum of 700 words in length.

Tags:

ComiConverse uses a tag system to sort articles and assist with search. Articles should have five tags. No more, no less. Five shall be the number of the tags, and the number of tags shall be five. Do not add six tags. Do not add three or four, excepting that thou then proceed to addeth a fifth.

Seven is right out!

How do you decide what to tag an article with?

First up is the title of the show/comic/film you're discussing, if there's only one of them. If the article is about multiple works and there isn't one that stands out as primary (eg. for a comparative listicle), they come further down the priority list. Second is the title of the series the article itself falls in, if applicable. Third is a theme: horror movies, for example. For articles about multiple works, their titles come in fourth. Last is the character or story element the article focuses on, and actor or artist. This should easily get you to five relevant tags without too much fuss.

 

Article Images:

Different types of article call for different levels of illustration. For a news article or short review, two or three images will generally suffice. Longer analysis pieces, history pieces, or in-depth reviews will warrant more illustrations. For listicles, one illustration per item is called for.

ComiConverse has specific guidelines for images. The web is a visual medium, and bald text is off-putting. Additionally, links on social media automatically include an image from the linked page as a preview, and if that space is left blank fewer people are likely to click through to read it.

For this reason, every article must have a Featured Image, which illustrates the article as a whole and appears between the byline and the text. The Featured Image will also appear when the article is linked to on social media. Featured Images are not inserted within the text; there is a separate box on the editor page for uploading them. [Featured Image criteria go here.] Featured Images do not require captions.

Every article also needs interior illustrations. An interior image should appear within the first 600 words of article text, and there should be additional images for each subsequent 400 words. Interior images do require captions, which should include source acknowledgements, of the form "Credit: [creator]." In most cases, the credited creator is the publishing company — eg. DC Comics, Lucasfilm, Netflix — rather than an individual artist, even if known. Listicles should have one illustration per item, which appears between the item heading and the accompanying text.

Interior images are presented centred, on their own line, at a width of 500 pixels. It is better to upload a larger image (say 1000 pixels) and to scale it down within the WordPress editor, because the picture will then display at the correct size and at full resolution on "Retina" and other high-resolution displays. If you cannot get the picture you need at high enough resolution, you can use a lower-resolution one; if the only version you can get is between 500–600 pixels wide, it is generally better to crop it to 500 or display it as-is rather than scale it down, as the scaling can reduce the image quality significantly.

Promotional photos, stills from released media or trailers, and individual panels or pages of comic books all qualify as fair use and you should feel free to use them. We may not be on such solid ground with pre-release leaks, especially stills, so use caution.
Videos can also be used. An official trailer would be appropriate illustration for a piece on a upcoming release or especially for a discussion of the trailer itself. In this case, please use an official source (ie. the distributor's official YouTube account rather than somebody else's reupload), and embed the video rather than re-uploading it yourself. YouTube, Vimeo and most other video hosting services have easy-to-use tools to provide you with embed code.

Search Engine Optimization:

SEO is what helps you get read. Readers who already follow you will come to you through Twitter, Facebook and so on; but how do you find people who would want to read your work if they knew about it, but don't? Search engines. There are certain techniques that help articles show up prominently and attractively in search engine results.

Every article has an SEO keyword. It doesn't have to be a single word, but it should be short; generally it's the title of the work discussed in the article, or for an article about multiple works, the theme that brings them together. This keyword must appear at least three times in the article: in the title, in the opening tag, and in the first paragraph of the introduction.

ComiConverse uses the Yoast SEO plugin to automatically check that your article is optimized and display a preview of how it will appear in search results. Enter your keyword in the plugin and click "check" in the publish dialog box to run it.

The other part of SEO is the meta description. Search engines display a brief summary of articles; enter what you want to see here in the Yoast "Meta description" box. The meta description is limited to 156 characters to ensure it displays correctly. It should usually simply be an abbreviated version of the article's opening tag.

You can also click the "Page Analysis" tab in the SEO plugin for detailed feedback on how it calculated your optimisation score. Don't follow it blindly — that way lies black-hat SEO, which prioritizes searchability over quality content and which we aren't interested in — but you might learn something useful.

Formatting:

For headings, it's important to use proper tags. Rather than simply bolding and enlarging the text manually, use WordPress' tools to select the formatting. This, of course, has the effect of bolding and enlarging the text, but it also adds appropriate leading between the heading and the text, means you don't have to remember what point size is required, and it also adds HTML heading tags. These tags ensure that the article displays correctly in settings like Flipboard, Apple News, RSS readers, and so on, many of which rely on their presence in order to impose their own custom formatting.

The "Heading 4" setting is standard for ComiConverse articles, both for separating sections of a text article and for displaying the titles of listicle entries. ("Heading 1" is equivalent to the article title and should never be used within the text.) If you need to use multiple heading styles to indicate a hierarchy (eg. when items within a listicle require their own internal subheadings, or if you're breaking up a synopsis by chapter or act), use the "Heading 5" setting for these lower-level headings. It should not be necessary to use more than two levels of headings in a piece.

Most of the rest of the formatting you'll need to do is handled automatically by the WordPress software. ComiConverse doesn't support custom fonts or style sheets. Block quotes, page breaks, italic text and so on are all easy to apply from the toolbar, and there's no need to mess around with detailed formatting; keyboard shortcuts like Command-I for italic text should work within the WordPress editor.

Attribution and External Linking:

News and stories don't exist in a vacuum. Furthermore, outbound links help with SEO — they help your article to get noticed and read. As such, your articles must include at least two outbound links each. If more are appropriate, don't hesitate to use them. For articles on TV shows or movies, standard practice is to link to IMDB profiles of lead actors at the first mention of their names in the text. Other fruitful sources of outbound links include news sites, wikis such as TV Tropes, and of course the official sites of the work in question and its publisher/studio/distributor/network.

For our purposes, we generally don't need to worry about formal, detailed citations. Illustrations in the body of an article are sufficiently covered by a caption simply reading "Credit: [creator].", where the creator is the publisher or distributor of the work.

For quotations from sources other than the work which is the subject of the article, the title (including issue or episode) will usually do. In the case of films and TV episodes, linking the title to its IMDB page should suffice.

Usage and Style:

Authorial Voice:

Authorial voice is a tricky thing to get right, and unfortunately the surest way to get it wrong is often to try too hard. Especially in a relatively informal setting like ours, where most attempts to sound authoritative and academic just come off as patronizing or needlessly obfuscatory. The biggest problem is that any attempt to lay down a set of rules is at best going to make you sound too formal, at worst going to needlessly restrict your creativity and expressiveness.

There is certainly no need to strictly avoid things like passive constructions, split infinitives or first person pronouns. Be conscious of them, certainly, but not so as to blindly avoid them; rather, so as to be aware of why you're saying things a particular way, and whether saying them in a different way might be clearer or easier to read.

Take the use of I, for example. Many style guides advise categorically against its use in formal prose. But this is nonsense; even the most formal academic papers don't go to great lengths to avoid it, and we're not particularly formal here in any case. Especially in opinion pieces, you are talking about what you think, and there's no point pretending otherwise; it doesn't make a subjective belief more convincing to recast it as though it were a boringly objective analysis. What makes opinions convincing is not pretending that they're facts but backing them up with facts; and in fact, saying "this is why I believe X" is probably more likely to win a given reader over than "this is why you should believe X". It's less adversarial, more conciliatory, and doesn't put the reader into a defensive mental stance.

Part of the appeal of sites like Cracked is that they present often serious issues in a witty and humorous way, so that the reader comes away feeling entertained as well as illuminated. I've tried to use such an approach here as well, throwing in the odd curve ball to keep the style from getting too dry. A style guide is not nearly as entertaining as a comic book, even if I myself find them jolly interesting.

Writing about inherently "frivolous" subjects, like comic books and pop culture, in this way can if anything be even harder. Yes, they're entertaining in their own right — but that can be part of the problem. If I want to get entertained by a comic book, I won't read an article about them, I'll just read a comic book. We have to bring something else to the table. Yes, we've got analysis and opinions and so on, and people who love and care about the things we write about will be drawn to us nonetheless. But we also want people who are less obsessed than that — less obsessed than we are — to be able to get enjoyment from our work.

Now, this isn't to say your article has to have outright gags in it, or to consciously attempt to be funny at all; because the subject matter is more frivolous, that's less necessary in order to still be entertaining, and forced humour is almost invariably no humour at all. But you don't need to resist the temptation to be a bit of a smart-ass or to make a terrible pun. Erring on the side of silliness rather than seriousness is far less likely to put readers off — even if they don't think you're all that funny. So it's always worth bearing in mind, when proofreading and editing as much as when drafting, the question "am I taking this too seriously?"

Again, the very name of the site tells you what sort of tone we're aiming for; if it had to be boiled down into one word, that word would be conversational.

 

Style Specifics:

Abbreviations and Acronyms:  Acronyms do not usually need full-stops (so "USA", not "U.S.A."), but if they're always spelt out in such a way in the source (eg. "S.H.I.E.L.D.", spelt so as to contrast with "HYDRA", which is not an acronym), then do so. Abbreviations that form parts of proper names, such as "Dr" for doctor, "St" for street, also don't need full stops; neither do am and pm for times. Adverbial abbreviations like "eg." or "viz." do take them.

Ampersand:  The ampersand (&) is to be used only in direct citations of sources or titles in which it appears; in ordinary text, the word and should be spelt out.

Brackets:  Parentheses (these round brackets) are used for parenthetical statements; hence their name. Square brackets are used for clarification within quotations (eg. "He [Fred] caught the dreaded lurgi"), to show that the clarification is not in the original. They're not needed for changes of a purely grammatical nature, such as capitalisation.

Colons, Commas, and Semicolons:  Colons are used to introduce lists or subsidiary sentences. For example: actually, that's a good enough example right there. There should never be more than one in a sentence. Semicolons are used to separate two related sentences; for example, like this. Note the difference between this usage and that of the colon. They are also used, in place of commas, to separate items in lists which themselves contain commas.

This style guide recommends the use of the Oxford comma — that is, the use of a comma (or semicolon as appropriate) after the penultimate item in a list, before the and. It's largely considered a matter of personal preference; but we recommend it because there are cases where choosing not to use it can create ambiguity. Compare "we invited Nelson Mandela, a 500-year-old demigod and a dildo collector" with "we invited Nelson Mandela, a 500-year-old demigod, and a dildo collector".

Currency: This section mainly exists to point out a common pitfall: you can say either "$3 million" or "three million dollars", but not "$3 million dollars".

Ellipses:  An ellipsis (…) is used to show an omission within a quotation; using it for emphasis or similar is generally bad style, unless you're consciously emulating speech trailing off. An ellipsis is never more or fewer than three dots.
Em dash, en dash and hyphen: The em dash (—) is used for parenthetical comments — like this one — or to signify a similar break in a sentence. It is also used to set off the attribution at the end of a block quote. The en dash (–) is used to represent "to" in expressions like 5–10 minutes, 9am– 5pm or London–Paris. Hyphens (-) are only used to join words, including names like Sally-Anne, or to signify a mid-word line break. To type dashes on a Macintosh, use option-hyphen for the en dash and shift-option-hyphen for the em dash; on Windows, Ctrl+hyphen gives an en dash, while Ctrl+Alt+hyphen gives an em dash.

Emphasis:  In general, use italics for emphasizing a word or phrase. Bold text can be used to emphasize words with which the reader may be expected to be unfamiliar, or which function as topic markers in the absence of headings; elsewhere, the mention (as opposed to use) of a word should be signified with italics. Never use capital letters for emphasis.

Numbers: In text, whether to write a number in numerals or words depends mainly on how many words it would take. If it would take only one or two words (nine, seventeen, two fifths, sixty-four), then write it out in words; otherwise (108, 8.5, 3001) use numerals. If you're referring to multiple numbers of the same thing, consistency is more important: if every number can be written in two words or less, do so; otherwise, write them all in numerals. When numbers of different things show up together, you can emphasize the difference by writing one in numerals and the other in words, eg. "30 five-man teams" is clearer than either "thirty five-man teams" or "30 5-man teams". For large numbers, compound forms are acceptable, eg. "55 million". Further exceptions and details can be found under Time.

Quotations: Only use quote marks for direct quotations.  Use double quote marks (" "); only resort to single quotes (‘ ') for quotations within quotations. And now I've used the word quote too often and it's gone weird on me. Take care to cite exactly what's in your source, even if it contravenes our house style. For errors in the source, such as spelling mistakes, insert "[sic]" immediately following the error to reassure your editor and readers that the error was not yours.

You can italicize a part of a quotation to emphasize it yourself; in such cases, add "[emphasis added]" following the quotation; conversely, if the quotation includes emphasis in the source, keep it and add "[emphasis in original]".

For quotations longer than a sentence or two, it is preferable to use a block quote rather than quote marks; WordPress can apply the necessary formatting automatically. Block quotes end with their attribution, aligned to the right hand side of the block quote, introduced with an em dash.

Time:  Time-spans are a partial exception to the rule of writing numbers as words. The forms "Episodes are 25 minutes each" or "5-minute episode" are to be preferred. Dates and times are also exceptions; always write "3:45 pm", "2 January", "the 1950s". As writing out dates entirely in numerals can cause confusion, thanks to the curious American practice of writing things in the wrong order, preferred usage spells out the month name: thus "23 November 1963". Saying "23rd November" is superfluous, and "November 23, 1963" is to be avoided. For broadcast times, specify the time zone or zones ("7 pm Eastern/6 pm Central") rather than using the opaque "7/6c" abbreviation.

Titles:  Titles of overall works are rendered in italics. Titles of subsidiary works (episodes of a show, chapters of a book, issues of a comic series) are not italicized, and are presented within quote marks. Titles should be presented in title case, with each word capitalized; except for articles (a, the), prepositions (for, with, to), and conjunctions (and, or), unless they're the first word of the title. If the subsidiary work is only numbered rather than titled, quote marks are not needed, and it is referred to using the convention used in the work, i.e. "Episode Six", "Chapter 6", or "Part VI". Bear in mind also that shows may refer to their seasons differently: Angel has seasons, but Red Dwarf has series, and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has phases. Doctor Who has both seasons and series, such that its third season (1966–66) and its third series (2007) refer to different things. Comic issues are referred to simply by number, eg. Superman #25. Films that are part of a series, even if they are titled as subsidiary works, do get the italic treatment: thus Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, not Star Wars Episode III "Revenge of the Sith.

Common Errors:

We're not here to make a stand for traditionalist grammar for its own sake. You should feel free to merrily split infinitives. Or to begin sentences with conjunctions, or to use prepositions to end them with.

But not all rules and definitions are so pointless and arbitrary. This section will list the more common errors that deserve to be noted and avoided. Mostly, this is because they can create ambiguity or confusion; but there is something to be said for simply avoiding offence to the grammatically obsessed. Nerd culture may have given us to boldly go, but it is also home to some of the world's biggest pedants. Myself, for example.

Grammatical:

Dangling Modifiers: This is when you use an adverb or adjective in a way such that it doesn't agree with the word or phrase it's modifying. For example: "Happily, the story gets better". What's happy? The story? The writer? The reader?
Specify.

The Possessive S: Regular plurals take an s with no apostrophe. This includes plurals such as 1970s and DVDs; some style guides advise the use of an apostrophe for decades and acronyms, but it is generally superfluous and therefore should be avoided. Possessives take an s with an apostrophe. If the word already ends in s, it is acceptable to form the possessive with a mere apostrophe, eg. James' nose, but feel free to use the regular form (James's nose) if you prefer, especially if you would pronounce the extra s in speech.

Shifting Tenses: A common error is changing from the past to present tense (or vice versa) in the course of a sentence or whole piece, eg. "He saw that she is tall." This throws the reader off. Some writers can't keep their tenses straight while drafting, or find that trying to do so hampers their writing process. That's okay; you just have to make sure you catch them in proofreading before you submit.
Stylistic

Italic Bleed: Take care to ensure you apply italic (and bold) formatting only to the words you intend; punctuation, unless an integral part of the phrase or title being italicized, should not be italicized.

Passive Voice: There are two basic ways to structure a typical descriptive sentence. "I broke the window" is in the active voice;

"The window was broken (by me)" is in the passive voice. Pieces with a large proportion of their sentences in the passive voice can be more difficult, or just less engaging, to read.

The passive voice has its uses — if it didn't, it would have fallen out of use of its own accord. It's useful when you want to obscure the agent, as in the example given; it can also lend a more objective, academic air to a sentence, which is why it is often overused by writers anxious to appear intelligent. Or, to rephrase in the active voice: which is why writers who are anxious to appear intelligent often overuse it. Because it rearranges the order of words, it can be used to emphasize one part of the sentence: "The window was broken (not the door)", vs. "I broke the window (not you)".

Don't avoid the passive voice like the plague, especially in your first draft. But for every sentence in it, ask yourself what purpose you're serving with it. If you can get the same meaning across with a more active phrasing, it's generally better to do so.

Spelling and Usage:

WordPress has a spell-checker plug-in, which ought to catch typical spelling errors like definate, alot, and so on.
If you're composing in something like Word or Pages, they should similarly catch those sort of errors. This list mainly focuses on errors spell-checkers can't catch, thanks to homophony or similar words.

Affect/Effect: These are notorious and annoying, and even professionally-compiled style guides have gotten them hopelessly wrong. Usually they slip up by declaring that affect is the verb and effect the noun, but unfortunately, effect can function as either noun or verb, and means something different from affect when it does. In their common usages, to affect something is to have an effect upon it. One can also affect an accent, a personality, a disability, and so on; that is, put it on as an act. To effect something is to cause or create it — for example, to effect change, or to effect a retcon.

Alot: What you're looking for is a lot, which is two words. An alot, according to Allie Brosh, is a mythical beast. (And to allot means to allocate, but it's rare to see this particular mistake.)

Alternate/Alternative: To alternate means to switch repeatedly between two options; as an adjective, alternate things are simply things which are alternated between; for example, a lasagna is made of alternate layers. Alternative is always an adjective, and most often simply means other, atypical, unorthodox, without any binary or vacillatory implications. This is one of the few things the snake-oil quacks have got right — you don't tend to hear people speaking of alternate medicine. Alternate history is a very common mistake, to the point of being used by some websites and publishers that specialise in the genre; but unless you're directly citing or referring to the official names of such publishers (in which case, cite them with "[sic]", meaning "error in source"), please use alternative history.

Assure/Ensure/Insure: These words have similar meanings, so they're often confused, but fortunately their meanings are relatively simple and precise. To assure is to promise. To ensure is to make certain. To insure a thing is to buy insurance on it.

Cannon/Canon: This one is particularly likely to show up on ComiConverse; I've seen it in a few articles I've edited for the site. A cannon is a piece of artillery. If you're talking about variations on a story, or whether a particular episode "counts", the word you want is canon. It's often better to talk about continuities rather than canons, especially when there are multiple different versions of a story or setting on the go (especially common in comics) and there isn't a particular one which is agreed to take priority; or when you simply want to avoid making a declaration on whether a thing is canonical.

Complement/Compliment: To complement is to go along with or to accompany; to compliment is to praise. Both also function as nouns; respectively, something which accompanies and an utterance of praise.

Eg./ie.: There's no handy short-cut for this one, unless you happen to speak Latin. Eg. (exempli gratia) means "for example". Ie. (id erat) means "that is". If you prefer, or you find it easier to remember, you can use viz. (videlicet) for "that is" as well, and it's preferred when followed by a list. Farther/further: Further is to be preferred in all cases. Farther is only accepted by some authorities, and then only for some meanings, while further is always accepted as an alternative for those meanings; it's better to play it safe and just use further.

Faze/Phase: To faze somebody is to bother them; if you're unaffected by a development you can be said to be unfazed. Phasing is not something that happens to people, except in Star Trek; it means to wax and wane.

Fewer/Less: If you can count how many discrete items of a thing you have, you can have more or fewer of them. If you can't, or you can only count in continuous units like kilograms or metres, you can have more or less of it.

I/Me: This particular slip-up generally occurs in speech rather than writing, and, curiously enough, for some reason it is one of those errors which seem to be disproportionately common among English teachers. It occurs when the words are paired with other pronouns or names, eg. you and I, Fred and I. The problem is that people are taught to say you and I rather than me and you, it being common courtesy to put the first person pronoun last, and assume that the use of me in those situations is similarly incorrect. Fred and I went to the movies is correct; Come to the movies with Fred and I is incorrect. The trick is to remove all the other pronouns or names, and see which pronoun would be correct then — Come to the movies with I is obviously incorrect, and Come to the movies with me obviously correct, and so the correct form is Come to the movies with Fred and me.

Into/In To: There's a fairly handy trick to this one. If in is being used as part of a verb phrase (eg. call in), or to as part of an infinitive (eg. to see), then keep the words separate. Otherwise you're generally good to join them.

Its/It's: Its is a possessive: its feet. This one is tricky, because normal English possessives have an apostrophe. But possessive pronouns don't; think of its as analogous to his or hers and you'll see that it fits that pattern. It's is a contraction of it is: it's a foot.

Loose/Lose: Loose is pronounced with an s sound, and is an adjective or verb meaning the opposite of tight or secure.
Lose is pronounced with a z sound; you lose your keys or the game, while you loose an arrow or a screw.

Passed/Past: Passed is just the past tense of pass. For anything temporal, except for saying that time itself has passed, past is appropriate.

Peak/Peek/Pique: This three-way homophone has been particularly abused of late, especially in the phrase sneak peek. Peak means the top or apex of something, and is generally a noun; although it can be used as a verb (as in he has peaked meaning he's past his prime). To peek or have a peek at something is to look; thus the expression sneak peek uses it and not peak. Finally, pique can be either a sense of annoyance, or a verb meaning to stimulate or irritate, generally encountered in the stock phrases a fit of pique and pique one's interest, respectively.

Than/Then: Than is a conjunction used to make comparisons: bigger than, better than. Then refers to time (then and now), order (entrée then dessert) or causation (if A then B).

Their/There/They're: Their is possessive: their shoes. There is locative or existential: there is a shoe. They're is a contraction of they are: they're shoemakers.

Singular They: They is the preferred singular term for when a person's gender is unknown or when, for whatever reason, it is preferred not to specify it. He or she is unwieldy and overly formal (and gender-binary-normative); attempts to create neologisms such as ze, xir, etc. are much less readily understood, and should only be used of specific individuals who have requested it. The singular they has a long history in English and there is no reason not to use it when a singular personal pronoun is called for.

Your/You're: This distinction is analogous to their/ they're above. Your is possessive: your comic is great. You're is a contraction of you are: you're a great writer.

Further Reading

Steven Pinker (2014). The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. London: Allen
Lane.

Pinker's book is, in my opinion, the first and last generalist style guide any writer needs. He is particularly good at explaining the reasoning behind the concepts he discusses, which many such guides omit to do entirely.

Gary Provost (1985). 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing.
USA: Penguin.

The source of my example on sentence length. May be out of print, unfortunately.

Anne Stilman (1997). Grammatically Correct: The Writer's Essential Guide to Punctuation, Spelling, Style, Usage and Grammar. Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer's Digest.

More formal and systematic than Pinker's guide, but perhaps less accessible, this is my go-to reference.

 

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