Shift Happens: Style guide

(Work very much in progress)

5 min readMar 1, 2021



article titles in italics, using sentence case (sic!)

book titles in italics, using sentence case (sic!)

videogame or TV show titles — as above

key labels (inside [[]]) use title cap

Titles of people: follow CMOS: title is capitalized before a name, as “President George W. Bush,” but otherwise not capitalized: “George W. Bush was sworn in as president,” “The president stated…”

Names of people: Default to last name for repeated reference

magazine titles (Wired, Byte, The Atlantic) not italicized, not quoted: lowercase “the” for titles in most publications

Latin words that are part of English (de facto, sui generis, etc.) should be in regular type. Italicize words or phrases that are not common in English and need more explanation

italicize words in other languages if they are inside a sentence (rather than something to draw attention to), e.g. kanji or hanzi unless the word or phrase (like “en masse”) is a borrowed part of English

Italicize words that are translations into English from other languages

Italicize digits if the number if a “noun” rather than “adjective” — e.g. the calculator chapter

after colon — capitalize first letter if a proper sentence, don’t capitalize if not

yes Oxford commas!

refer to people by their last name with the optional honorific, e.g. “prof. Rempel”

image captions — full stop at the end of proper sentence only

keys held together (keyboard shortcuts) to use a plus, so [Ctrl]+[A], with no spaces around the plus

Are all footnotes complete sentences? Yes. Full stop at the end.

Image captions don’t have to be complete sentences they don’t have a full stop

Adverbs don’t take a hyphen in a phrase: “A badly designed machine”

A person’s initials: Use a full space in manuscript, as the typesetting algorithm will reduce inter-initial spacing (as in J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis)

Name formatting: Junior, senior, numbers:

  • John Cadwell III (no comma)
  • Felicity Gates Sr. (no comma, abbreviated, capital)

Company names: singular nouns (“Smith-Corona ate many bananas; it got very sick.”)

Put a space after an ellipsis! So, live long… an prosper rather than live long…and prosper

A comma or a full stop or a semicolon after italics is also italicized

States: spell out in full


Use […] for omissions in quotes

Call out errors in quote text as [sic]

first level of quotation: “double smart quotes”

second level of quotation: “use «guillemets» inside double smart quotes”

commas and full stops inside smart quotes, and so on


A person “types”, but a typewriter “writes” (a typewriter cannot “type” since typing is the human act of using fingers to press keys).


Avoid (1984) in image captions, but use “, 1984” — or if not possible, standardize on the former

Precise dates as “21 January 2014”

Format month and date as “January 2014” not “January of 2014”


Spell out numbers that start sentences: Rework if it’s an awkward start, like “Eighteen thirty-six”

Spell out numbers from 1–100 and others that are easily expressed in words (e.g. two hundred but 250, eighteen hundred but 1,823.)

Currency: Write out currency in numerals (don’t spell out, even for single-digit numbers) and concisely. “Five million dollars” should be written $5 million. Same with, say, £10,000 or €50 billion.

Use vulgar fractions rather than .25 or .5


8am, 5pm, and so on — no dots, no space

50wpm (words per minute) — no dots, no space

30apm (actions per minute) — no dots, no space


1970s, not 1970’s

5" drive rather than 5-inch drive

aesthetically vs. esthetically

after-market vs. aftermarket


alphabetical not alphabetic

AppleWriter not Apple Writer

ARPANET not Arpanet (will use small caps)

banks when talking about keyboard rows

Baudôt and not Baudot

black-and-white vs. black and white when an adjective (and so on)

Black people, not black people

braille rather than Braille when talking about the concept (adjective)

Cerebral Palsy (capitalized)

Chiclet, not chiclet

comptometer if a generic reference, Comptometer if the specific machine

Displaywriter, not DisplayWriter

emoji, not Emoji

emoji (plural), not emojis

fianceé, not fiancé

Fitts’s Law, and generally this way to construct a possessive out of a name ending with “s”

floor, not storey

Hall effect

Hall-effect switch

harken vs. hark (or hearken)

inputted vs. input

(the) internet rather than Internet

Keyboardio, not

keycap, not key cap

keylogging, not key logging

key punch, not keypunch

keystrokes vs. key strokes

key switch, not keyswitch

Key Tronic and not KeyTronic

L.C. Smith rather than LC Smith

µTRON not Microtron

mass-produced, not mass produced

Ming Kwai, not MingKwai

monospace not monospaced

mother of all demos (don’t capitalize)

motor memory rather than muscle memory (after and before talking about it)

multi-shift (don’t make Shift a key style)

: use rather than No., and no space between that and a number (e.g. №2)

passersby, not passers-by

predefined, not pre-defined

punch cards not punched cards (and always as two words, not punchcard)

QWERTY not Qwerty (will use small caps)

re-create vs recreate

retype vs. re-type

sci-fi — do not italicize

Smith-Corona rather than Smith Corona

spacebar, not space bar

space-cadet keyboard rather than Space Cadet keyboard

Speak & Spell

Stockholm syndrome

thumb shift, not thumb


typebar and not type bar


UNIVAC not Univac (will use small caps)

U.S. rather than US (will use small caps?)

USA — avoid

VariTyper not Vari-Typer or Varityper

videogame and not video game

Website not site

western rather than Western

wi-fi in the generic style

world fairs rather than world’s fairs or World’s Fairs when talking about a generic concept

The World Wide Web

World War I / WWI — use either depending on context

World War II / WWII — see above

ZX80, not ZX-80

ZX81, not ZX-81

ZX Spectrum


I’m generally struggling with these as my native tongue doesn’t have articles. I think all of the above need a definite article:

Selectric or the Selectric

Model M or the Model M

Shift Wars or the Shift Wars

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