style guide

related stuff

editors' & writers' page

For anyone editing cJ, this is your guide to writing Joe style.

The Joe Credo

First off, all Joe writers and editors sign on to the Joe credo:

“As a citizenJoe writer/editor I solemnly swear to uphold the cJ values of clarity, fact-basedness and balance. As such, with each addition/edit I make, I will leave cJ more accessible, fully-fleshed-out and current, with as fair a representation of all mainstream* views as I can manage. I’ll also endeavor to avoid Latinate and pretentious words (like endeavor, Latinate and pretentious), link to reputable fact sources whenever I quote a fact and, in general, strive to make cJ a good read.”

*Okay, this is subjective in the extreme – what we really mean to say is that it’s not necessary for us to spell out the views of Trotskyites or of the Aryan Nation, but we’ll use our common sense to give the views of mainstream liberals (of the left-wing and moderate kind), moderates and conservatives (of the moderate and hardcore variety).

General guidelines

Facts

For any fact, include a web link. If the fact is from one of the nonpartisan governmental sources (CBO, GAO, Census or CRS - see our links page), one citation is enough. If, however, you don't have a reputable nonpartisan source, please include two sources that balance each other out.

Style

  • Assume your readers are intelligent.

  • Assume they know nothing - at least on the topic you’re writing about.

  • Steer clear from language that is academic, wonky, legalese-y.

  • Be straight, simple, clear but don’t be afraid to use your voice.

Balance

In the end, your contributions should be so balanced that a reader wouldn't be able to guess the political views of the writer. The trick, of course, is to look for the sensible and valuable arguments on both sides.

Format

Fact pages

Fact pages aim to give readers a quick reference to the key facts connected to national policy debates. The idea is both to give readers background facts so they can put debates in context and to imagine what are the facts they'd want to know to figure out where they stand on the issue.

While there's no strict format for fact pages, in general you want to go heavy on numbers and graphs and light on text.

A note on multiple versions of the facts: when you find sources disagree on the facts, list 'em all.

Issue Briefs

Issue briefs aim to give readers a brief overview of national policy debates, putting the debate in context and laying out the essential arguments on all sides.

Again, there's flexibility on the format, but in general issue briefs should have at least three elements:

  • the "what's up" paragraph. In 4 - 8 sentences, giving the debate context: why are folks talking about this issue, what's the impact/relevance on our lives and what's the basic disagreement.

  • pros & cons. In 2 - 6 paragraphs, spell out the key arguments on each side.

  • status. Include a paragraph that gives the latest on what's going on with the debate in DC or, less frequently, in the states.

The Small Stuff

As they say, don't sweat it, but to keep as much stylistic consistency on the site, we encourage our writers to also follow these additional stylistic rules.

Acronyms

  • no periods: US, CAFTA, UN, CIA, etc.

Capitalization

  • “President Bush” – but “the president”

  • the House, the Senate, Congress

Citations

  • Always cite facts within text, either:

    • After sentence: “20% of US farms churn out 80% of all produce. (USDA)”

    • Within sentence: “The 100 largest US farms churn out 80% of all produce (USDA) but only 10% of all organic produce (Vegan).”

    • At end of paragraph: if all facts in a paragraph come from same source, you can tag on the citation at the end of the paragraph.

  • As in the examples above, use an acronym of the source or, in the case of the source being one word (I used an imaginary source – Vegan.org), use the one word.

  • PDF sources: note when a source is a PDF document thusly: (USDA – pdf)

Dates of facts

  • When you use a fact, you should specify the year the fact was relevant - either within the text or added within parentheses after the fact and citation.

    • Eg: “In 2004, 20% of US farms churned out 80% of all produce. (USDA)” OR “20% of US farms churn out 80% of all produce. (USDA) (2004)”

Numbers

  • Shoot for using 2 digits or, at most, 3 digits and no more than one decimal point, e.g. 233 million (not 233,000,000), 2.3 billion

Paragraph format

  • Use box format. No indentation.

Quotation marks

  • Always “ (double) unless there is a quote within a quote then ‘ (single).

Self-referentialism. Appropriate ways to refer to cJ:

  • citizenJoe

  • cJ

  • Joe