Some words or phrases should be capitalized when used to describe something specific but not when used in a general sense.
- conferences/meetings: Capitalize "DRUUMM Youth of Color Conference" or "General Assembly," but not "a conference on religious education."
- departments: Capitalize "Department of Religious Education," but not "program department."
- committees: Capitalize "the Religious Education Committee" but not "a religious education committee." Note: okay to capitalize when using shorthand for official name. For example, if the paragraph is all about the Board of Trustees, okay to abbreviate as "the Board."
- God/god: Capitalize "God" when referring to the Judeo/Christian deity, but not "a god."
- job titles: Capitalize when using a person's title as a part of their name, i.e. "Mary Benard, Editor," but not when describing the position generally, i.e. "Mary Benard, the editor at the UUA."
- Capitalize the following when referring to the official UU statements:
(Note: Do not capitalize numbers with these words, i.e. "seven Principles" or "the first Principle.")
- Capitalize theological positions common in Unitarian Universalism, such as "Transcendentalist," "Humanist," "Pagan," "Theist," "Atheist," and "Deist."
- Do not capitalize "scripture."
Consider use of UU abbreviations on a case-by-case basis. It may be appropriate for pamphlets that are intended for UUs to use "insider" abbreviations, such as "CLF," "GA," or "UUMA," but introductory pamphlets should avoid abbreviations that newcomers won't understand. However, some general rules:
- "UU" okay as adjective or noun, but not "UUism." Spell out "Unitarian Universalism."
- "Rev." okay in bylines or lists, but "the Reverend" should be used within text.
- Two-letter state abbreviations, e.g. "MA," okay in bylines, lists, or bibliographic information, but spell out states within text.
- Digits okay for numbers from one to ten and multiples of one hundred, but all others should be spelled out. Always spell out a number if it is the first word in a sentence or part of a church name.
- Spell out academic degrees unless given as part of a person's name. "Mary Benard, Ph.D." but "Mary Benard has earned a doctorate."
- Serial comma
- Avoid excessive use of exclamation points, em dashes, or ellipses.
- Don't put periods in UU abbreviations, i.e. "RE," not "R.E."
- OBGLTC prefers that "bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender" be placed in alphabetical order when listed, in order to avoid implying priority.
- OBGLTC prefers that we use "his/her" and "she/he" rather than "his or her" and "she and he," in order to suggest that gender is not absolutely binary.
- Use "BCE" and "CE" rather than "BC" and "AD."
- Use "Hebrew scripture" rather than "Old Testament." Use "Christian scripture" rather than "New Testament."
- Use "congregation" instead of "church."
- Follow Chicago style, e.g. Benard, Mary. Pamphlet Stylesheet. Boston: UUA, 2000.
- Don't include out-of-print materials.
- website (per consultation with Deb Weiner)
- Change British spelling to American.
- Use New Revised Version for biblical quotes unless specifically instructed otherwise.
- Italicize foreign words.
IN GENERAL, FOLLOW THE CHICAGO MANUAL OF STYLE UNLESS SPECIFIED OTHERWISE HERE.
- Verbs should appear in the "active voice" unless the passive voice is absolutely necessary. The active voice forces you to create more efficient and interesting sentences, while the passive voice robs the action you describe of its immediacy, and requires wordier sentences. "It was hoped by Jesus that love would abound," gains energy in the active voice: "Jesus hoped that love would abound." Try to use the passive voice only when the "subject" of your sentence is unknown.
- Minimize use of the verbs "to be" and "to have" in any of their tenses. "Is," "was," "has been," "had been," "will be," "will have been," "has," "had," and "will have" offer no precise information or action and result in flat, stagnant prose. Try to find an active verb. For example, "Habitual meditation will have the effect of making us better people." One might say instead, "Habitual meditation will make us better people."
- Use empty intensifiers sparingly. "Truly," "incredibly," "very," "delightful," "wonderful," "terrific," and similar expressions of emotional agitation offer nothing for your reader to get excited about. Find more precise language.
- Vary your sentences in structure and length. You can write more interesting prose by varying the way in which you begin your sentences, e.g., use a prepositional phrase ("In my moment of panic, ..."), a subordinate clause ("When the steeple tumbled down, ...") or a participial phrase ("Standing by the ineffectual microphone..."). Such variations will almost automatically result in varied sentence lengths as well.
- Keep your focus on your subject, not on yourself. If you describe your subject and refrain as much as possible from describing your reaction to your subject, you allow your listeners to imagine themselves in the presence of what you are describing. Instead of, "I was deeply moved when the waves crashed," you may want to say, "The waves crashed, thundering, foam flying through the air.") Be careful of your metaphors and common turns of phrase. When you use metaphors such as, "beat a dead horse," "keep your eyes peeled," "bit his head off," "blood bath," etc., some readers will imagine the picture all too vividly. When you say you were "literally blown away," you have told your readers that the wind actually picked you up and whisked you off.
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Last updated on Wednesday, June 2, 2010.