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CSU Chico Style Guide

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California State University, Chico

Technical Writing   Style Guide For Online and Paper Technical Publications

 

Foreword This guide presents CSU, Chico’s house style for technical online and paper technical  public  pub licati ations ons.. Why do we need a house style? To help us better carry out our program’s mission: producing accurate information that helps others to use our documents successfully. successfully. Users ranging from inexperienced end users to highlevel technicians must be able to find the information they need—and once they have found it, to understand it. This calls for a style that is simple, direct, and uniform. Our style is concise: free of excess verbiage and technical jargon. Our style should enable us to speak directly to the users—to tell them just what they need and no more. Reports and manuals should follow these style guidelines to ensure consistency across published materials. The Technical Writing Program has always placed a high value on editorial consistency. It is even more important now as we move to electronic publishing. This style guide will help you make your documents and publications consistent with basic technical writing stylistic and design conventions. Before you begin to plan your publications and to develop a production schedule, allow the time necessary to familiarize yourself with this document. Keep in mind that these guidelines are meant to foster clarity—never impede it. Like any guidelines, they require a certain degree of interpretation. So please use common sense. If, in a  partic  par ticula ularr situa situatio tion, n, foll followi owing ng a guidel guideline ine would would hide hide inform informati ation on or or resul resultt in a clumsy clumsy constr construct uction ion,, make an exception. Then clear it with the director of the program. If you have questions, please contact me at x5269 or by e-mail at [email protected] [email protected] Kenneth R. Price Director of Technical Writing March, 2001

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Preface Introduction The California State University, Chico Technical Writing Style Guide for Online and Paper  Technical Publications is a complete guide to style for technical user information. Adherence to the style guide helps to ensure that the technical information you produce is consistent in style, organization, and terminology. Use this guide as your first reference for style questions. If the information that you need is not in this guide, then check the following sources: Grossman, John. The Chicago Manual of Style: The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers. 14th Edition. U of Chicago P, 1993. Hale, Constance. Wired Style: Principles of English Usage in the Digital Age. HardWired, 1996.  Micr osoft Manual of Style  Microsoft St yle for f or Technic Te chnical al Publica Pu blications tions . 2nd Edition. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Press, 1998.

Sun Technical Publications. Read Me First! A Style Guide for fo r the Computer C omputer Industry . New York: Prentice-Hall, 1996.

 Audi  Au dienc encee This guide has two major audiences: • CSU, Chico Chico scientific scientific and technical technical writing writing and editing editing students • Third-pa Third-party rty users users of their docume documents nts

Structure of this Guide The style guide is divided into four sections: •  Section One  discusses stylistic conventions, arranged alphabetically. •  Section Two  lists abbreviations and acronyms, and other terms commonly used in technical information, arranged alphabetically. •  Section Three provides sample grids for paper documents and web pages. • A compre comprehen hensiv sivee index.

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Section One: Stylistic Conventions Conventions Use the following conventions throughout your online and paper technical publications: Co n v en t i o n

 A  Ad ddresses

Des c ri pt io n

Spell out all parts of addresses except for state abbreviations. Department English California State University, Chico 400 West First Street Chico, CA 95929-0560

Colons

A colon is used most often to introduce a list, statement, quotation, or summary. It is also used to introduce introduce a clause relating relating to the preceding preceding clause. (See  lists.) Jane does not study for enjoyment: It is expected of her. Participants should bring the following items: pens, paper, pillows, and coffee.

The colon should not be used after an incomplete sentence. The metals excluded were mercury, manganese, and magnesium.

Commas   Ap  Appositiv itive es

The following guidelines cover the basics of punctuating with commas. Use a comma to set off a nonrestrictive appositive (a noun or noun phrase that renames a noun). Gretchen Hargis’ book,  Developi  Developing ng Quality Technical Information, received favorable reviews.

Commas iin n  a Series

In a series of three or more terms with a single  conjunction, use a comma after  each term except the last. grades of A, B, and C

Coordinating  Conjunctions

Use a comma before a coordinating conjunction (and, but, so, or, nor, for, yet)  joinin  joi ning g two indepe independe ndent nt claus clauses. es. These examples do not include all possible violations, but they do provide a sample of   be  beha havi vior or t hat ha t wi ll resul re sul t in di disci sci pl plin inar ary y ac tion ti on..

Introductory Clause or  Phrase

Use a comma to set off an introductory clause or phrase. When faculty suspect students of cheating, they may bring formal charges.

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Parenthetical  Elements

Use commas to set off parenthetical elements that retain  a close logical relationship to the rest of the sentence. The work is, on the whole, very satisfactory.

Capitalization

The following guidelines cover the basics of capitalization: • Capitalize Capitalize all major major words words in titles and and headings. headings. • Capitalize Capitalize the first and last words words of titles and h headings, eadings, regardless regardless of th their  eir   parts of speech. speech. • Do not not capit capitaliz alizee the the to in an infinitive phrase. • Do not not capita capitalize lize articles articles.. • Do not capitalize capitalize coordina coordinating ting conjunct conjunctions. ions. • Do not capitalize prepositions prepositions of four four or fewer letters. letters. • Capitalize Capitalize preposition prepositions, s, articles, and conjunction conjunctions, s, only if they are the first word in the title or follow a colon. • Capitalize Capitalize only only the initial initial word of second-lev second-level el headings. headings. • even Do not capitalize cap italizeathe thcomplete e word following foll owing an em dash, dash, unless unless it is a proper noun, noun, if it begins sentence. • Capitalize references references to figures, tables, and chapters when they are followed  by a letter letter or numbe number. r. See Table II

• In lists, capitalize capitalize the first word word in the list if each item item is a complete sentence sentence or a verb phrase. A hurricane starts when the following conditions occur: • Water vapor evaporates from the surface of a warm tropical ocean ocean.. • Thund Thunderclou erclouds ds for form m and release release heat.

Interface Elements

The following capitalization guidelines apply to interface elements: • For menu names, names, command command and command command button button names, names, and dialog dialog box titles, follow the interface. Otherwise, use title caps. • Do not capitalize capitalize interface interface elements used used generically, generically, such as menu, menu, toolbar, toolbar, scroll bar, and icon. • Always consult consult your particular particular project project style sheet sheet for terms terms that may be be case-sensitive or traditionally all uppercase or lowercase.

Dashes

In text, (–) signifies an en dash, and (—) signifies an em dash.

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• Use an en en dash to to indicate indicate a range range of number numbers. s. • You may may use two hyphen hyphenss indicate indicate an em dash. dash. The length does not change—even if the line spacing chang es. The chapter runs from pages 22–41.

Use the plural forms of pronouns to avoid sexist language. In examples, alternate

Gender 

 between males males and females. females. Hyphenation

Observe these rules when hyphenating modifiers: • Hyphenate two two or more words words that precede precede and modify modify a noun as a unit unit if  confusion might result.

 

Correct hig h-l eve l la ngu age read-only memory

l o we r- l e ft c or ne r   line-by-li line-by-line ne scrollin scrolling g

• Hyphenate two two words that precede precede and modify modify a noun as a unit unit if one of the the words is a past or present participle. Correct

 

copy -prote ct ed di sk

f r e e - mo vi n g gr a p h i c s

• Hyphenate two words that precede precede and modify a noun as a unit if the two modifiers are a number or single letter and a noun or participle. Correct 8-point font 16-bit bus

ei g h t- si de d p o ly g o n 8 0 - co lu mn tex t car d

• Use an en dash (–) (–) instead of a hyphen hyphen in a compound compound adjective in which which at least one of the elements is an open compound (such as Windows NT) or  when two or more of the elements are made up of hyphenated compounds. Correct Windows 98–compatible products

Some products have dialog box–type options for frequently used operations.  

• Do not use a hyphen hyphen in key combination combinations. s. Use a plus sig sign n instead, instead, as in “ALT+0.”  See  Se e Also Dashes,

Post/pre

Numbers

In general, do not hyphenate words with post or pre prefixes.  po st se co nd ar y

pr prer er eq equi ui si site te

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Use numbers or letters in lists only when indicating a sequence to the items. When items of a list are numbered or lettered, follow each number or letter with a  period.  peri od. Other Otherwise wise,, if the the items items in a vertic vertical al list list need to be set set off, off, use bulle bullets. ts.

Lists

• Use parentheses parentheses to enclose numbers numbers marking marking a division within running running text. text. You will qualify for admission to the program if you are (1) a high school graduate, (2) meet test requirements, and (3) have completed the college preparat ory subject requirements.

Parallelism

Make lists parallel by using the same sentence construction for each item. You will create a small table in FrameMaker by following these steps: 1. Open Tables.fm in the Lesson folder. 2. Choose Save As. 3. Enter the ffilename ilename Tables1.fm. 4. Cli Click ck Save.

Colons

In running text, colons are often used to introduce a list, but should not be used to separate a verb from its object. This rule also applies to vertical lists. Required courses include the following: ENGL 130, ENGL 230, and ENGL 235. Required courses include ENGL 130, ENGL 230, and ENGL 235. Not: Alternative transportation in Chico includes:

• B iicc yc yc li li n ng g • Publ Public ic T Tra rans nsit it • W a lk lk iin ng But: Alternative transportation in Chico includes the followin g::

• B iicc yc yc li li n ng g • Publ Public ic Tra Trans nsit it • W a llk king

Number s Numerals

Observe these guidelines when using numbers. Use numerals in the following situations: • In count counting ing ten ten or more more items. items. 18 di sk dri ve s

514 bonds

• In sentences sentences containing two two or more numbers numbers when the first number number is ten or  more. Last month, the shipping and receiving department processed 431 orders with a work  force of only 7 people.

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• In units of time, measurement, measurement, or money. money. Although Although days, days, weeks, and y years ears are technically units of time, use words for designations up to nine. We anticipate a 10 percent increase in the unit over the next three years. The meeting was scheduled for 2:30 p.m.

• Combined Combined with words for for very large numbers. numbers. Use a number number followed followed by the word. 2 gigab ytes

a n $ 8 m i ll i o n bu dg e t

• Combined Combined with words if if two numerals numerals appear together. together. In this case, spell out the lower number and use numerals for the higher number. 12 t wo -fo ot sec t i on s o f pi pe

Word Equivalents

eig ht 30 - po u nd bo x es o f d eterg en t

Use the word equivalent for numerals in the following cases: • In countin counting g up to nine nine items. items. fou r bo ok s

n in e su rv eys

• In orderi ordering ng items items up to to the ninth. ninth. ninth screen shot

S eventh A venue

• To begin begin a senten sentence. ce. Three tables provide details.

• But if the numeral numeral is more than two words, words, reorder reorder the sentence. sentence. Not: Two hundred forty-seven surveys were returned by customers. But: Customers returned 247 surveys.

• To indicat indicatee approxim approximatio ations. ns. During the nineties,

   

• But not when the approxi approximation mation is used used as a modifier. modifier. A lm os t 20 off ic ers

o ver 2 0 0 res po ns es

• To indicate indicate fractions, fractions, unless the the fraction is used as a modifier. modifier. One -ha l f o f th e t ot al d ist a nc e

2 ½ y a r d s of fa b r i c

• When possible, possible, change change the the fraction fraction into a decima decimal. l. Not: 3/12 acres But: 3.5 acres

• Combined Combined with words if if two numerals numerals appear together. together. In this case, spell out the lower number and use numerals for the higher number. 12 t wo -fo ot sec t i on s o f pi pe

eig ht 30 - po u nd bo x es o f d eterg en t

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Plurals

If you are not sure how to form the plural of a word, check the  American  Heritage  Herita ge Dictionary Dic tionary . • Form the plural plural of an acronym acronym by adding adding an s with with no apostrophe. apostrophe. AP I s

C PUs

• Form the plural plural of a single letter by adding adding an apostrophe apostrophe and an s. The letter  letter  itself, but not the s, is italic.  x’s

• Form the plural plural of a number number by adding adding an s with no no apostrophe. apostrophe. 10s

Singular/Plural  Words

Criterion, parenthesis, phenomenon, medium, and memorandum are singular. • Criteria, parentheses, parentheses, phenomena, phenomena, media, media, and memorandum memorandumss are plural words. • Collective nouns nouns such as committee, committee, faculty, faculty, and staff name a group. group. If the group functions as a unit, treat the noun as singular; if the members of the group function individually, treat the noun as plural. The committee, at its last meeting . . . The committee put their signatures on the document.

Quotation Marks

Observe these guidelines for quotation marks: • Use quotation quotation marks to indicate indicate a citation or or direct quotation. quotation. Place commas commas and periods inside the closing quotation mark; colons and semicolons outside. • The placement placement of a question question mark depends depends on the meaning: meaning: Does Does it apply to the part quoted or to the whole sentence? • Question marks marks that are part part of a title go go inside quotation quotation marks. marks. The University Catalog says this about our satellite technology: “In 1983, the university installed a 10-meter Scientific Atlanta earth station on campus.” “I can't attend,” she said. Was she called “President”? He asked, “Is it time to go?” Read Chapter 2, “Where from Here?”

Spacing

Space once after periods and colons.

Telephone Numbers

Enclose the area code in parentheses. Space between the right parenthesis and the number. Then follow the exchange with a hyphen. (530) 898-5269

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The following guidelines cover the basics of titles.

Titles Italics

Set the following titles in italics (or underlined if italics are not available: • Titles and subtitles subtitles of published published books, pamphlets, pamphlets, proceedin proceedings gs and collections, periodicals, and newspapers and sections of newspapers  publish  pub lished ed separ separate ately ly • Titles Titles of collections collections of of poetry poetry or long poems poems • Ti Titl tles es of of play playss • Titles Titles of moti motion on pictu pictures res • Titles of operas operas and and other long long musical musical compositio compositions ns • Titles of paintings, paintings, drawings, drawings, statues, statues, and other other works of art

Roman Type and Quotati Quo tation on Marks

Set the following works in roman (plain/regular) type  and enclose in quotation marks: • Titles of articles and features in periodicals and newspapers, chapter chapter titles, titles of short stories, essays, and individual sections in books • Titles of manuscripts manuscripts in collections collections and lectures and papers read at meetings • Titles of songs songs and short compositio compositions ns • Titles of televisio television n and radio program programs, s, unless it is a series; then then italicize italicize the  progra  pro gram m title title and and put put the episod episodee tit title le in quotati quotation on m mark arks. s.

URLs and E-mail  A  Ad ddresses

When possible, use parentheses to enclose a URL, a colon to introduce it, or italics to highlight it. Do not add punctuation to an Internet address. If an address will not fit on one line, break the address after a forward slash or   before  befo re a period. period. Do not not hyphenat hyphenate. e.

 

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Section Two: Terms, Abbreviations, and Acronyms Terms and/or Avoid this shortcut. Instead of writing “You may file change of major forms on Monday and/or Tuesday,” write “on Monday or Tuesday.” course work Always two words. California State University, Chico Use the full formal name in first references. CSU, Chico may be used on second and subsequent references. Chico State is acceptable in inform al contexts, newsletters, and internal publications. disabled The term disabled is preferable to handicapped. The phrase people with disabilities is  preferable  preferab le to the the disabled disabled.. etc. Etc. is frequently added to the end of a series to mask an imprecise or incomplete though thought. t. Omit from formal writing. i.e. or e.g. These terms are often confused: i.e., id est , means “that is” e.g., exempli gratia, means “for example”

Avoid both words.  

Internet Internet is a proper noun that is always capitalized.

it's/its It’s is a contraction meaning it is. Its is a possessive pronoun (hers, his, its). It’s a requirement that each department have its own chair.

nonIn general, non takes no hyphen when used as a prefix (nonprofit, nonresident), except when the base word is a proper noun (non-Western) or begins with an n (non-native).

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online One word, no hyphen in all uses. less/fewer Use fewer when referring to items that can be counted; use less when referring to quantity, value, degree, or amount. Fewer students failed the entrance exam. Chico got less rain this year.

media and medium Use media for both singular and plural forms with the singular verb form. If your media consists of only one volume, mount that volume and proceed to step 2. If your media consists of two or more volumes, mount those volumes and proceed to step 3. The media is packaged in protective material.

menus Use the following guidelines when discussing menus:  select  ct , when picking an operation from a menu. • Us Usee tthe he ve verb rb choose, rather than  sele • Use initial initial letters letters for for the name name of a menu. menu.

• Writ Writee the the term term menu in all lower-case letters. money Monetary values are country-specific. Use the following guidelines when discussing monetary values: • Avoid reference reference to monetary monetary values of of products or services in user documents. documents. • If you use monetary monetary values in examples, examples, include a comment comment in the source file indicating indicating the purpose of the example. • If the document document is localized, the the translator can design design an appropriate appropriate exam example ple using local currency or values. seasons  Use lowercase, even when referring to an issue of a publication (capitalize only if the season is part of the official title, as in The Fall Update).  Inter ercom com  the fall 2000 issue of Int

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 Ab  A b br ev i at atii o ns an d A c ro ny m s General Use Use abbreviations (the shortened form of the word) and acronyms (words formed by the initial letters of a phrase) sparingly.  Note: Technica  Note: Technically, lly, an an abbrevi abbreviatio ation n is a short shortened ened form of a word, word, and and ac acron ronym ym is a  pronou  pro nounce nceabl ablee wo word, rd, and an initia initialis lism m is an an abbre abbrevia viatio tion n fo forme rmed d from from the the initia initiall let letter terss of  words in a phrase, pronounced as individual letters. Scub a

IBM

In this guide, an acronym is used to refer to an initialism. • Spell out the complete complete term the first time an ab abbreviatio breviation n or acronym app appears ears in the text, reference topic, or help topic. Then show the abbreviation or acronym in parentheses. • In subsequent subsequent reference, you can use just the abbreviation or acronym. 1-gigabyte (GB) hard disk  information stored in random access memory (RAM)

• In paper document documents, s, it may be a good idea to spell out the the abbreviation abbreviation or acronym acronym again when it appears in a later chapter or if many pages separate subsequent references. • It is acceptable acceptable to use an acronym acronym in a heading, heading, but do not spell spell out its meaning in th thee heading, even if it has not been spelled out previously. • Choose the indefinite indefinite article article based upon upon the acronym’s acronym’s pronunciation. pronunciation. an AN NS S I c ha ha ra ra ct ct er er s et et

a WY YS S IW IW Y YG G s ys ys ttee m

• To form form the plural plural of an acronym, acronym, use use a lowercase lowercase s without an apostrophe.

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Section Three: Sample Grids Paper Documents  

Page Layout & Design Bold 11-12 pt. Sans Serif  Headings

In presentational writing, you should try to minimize elabo ration. One effective method to minimize elaboration is through bulleted lists. When using lists, you should have no more than seven elements. Another method to aid your readers’ understanding is in choosing the most appropriate font. Always use a serif font in the body text of pa per documents. Serif  fonts guide your reader’s eye across the page. The following fonts are suitable for   body t ext: • Times New Roman Roman • Garamond Garamond • Palatino Palatino In addition, select a 10-11 pt. serif font for bod y text.

Sans Serif 10 pt. Subheadings

The following visual elements will allow your reader to assimilate information at a glance: •  Paragraphs . Your paragraphs should have no more than 35 words and no more than three sentences. Bolding ke y words, phrases, or sentences allows you to provide additional schemata by providing your reader with a visual overview. •  Sentences. Your sentences should have no more than 17 words. Your point should always be obvious to the reader. •  Visual Elements. Paper documentation typically employs listings, headings, subheadings, sectional overviews, and textual introductions and captioning for visual elements. Additional elements such as ragged-right margins can increase your readers’ comprehension by 10 percent. The following visual illustrates the method for presenting graphics in paper  documents:

10 pt. Figure or Table Number and Caption

10 pt. Section or Chapter Title

10 pt. Pagination in Footer

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Web Pages

Site title and navigational buttons Page title Link to entry page Context links with current page lightened

Gutter

Text and graphic column

Centered logo in navigational column Link to top of page Footer with name, copyright, revision date, navigational buttons, and links with current page lightened

Help Windows Title: 24pt. Tahoma Bold, RGB: 51, 51, 204

Overview Hyperlink Button: 12pt. Tahoma Bold, RGB: 51, 51, 204

Topic Frame

Images

Overview

To add an image 1. Click where where you want to inser insertt the image. 2. Click Insert, Insert, Graphics Graphics,, Image. Image. 3. Browse through the files until until you find the image you want to insert. 4. Select Select th the e imag image. e. 5. Click Click the Insert button button.. 6. Click outside the image to rreturn eturn to th the e Document Window. Related topics

Textual Introduction: Initial cap., infinitive phrase Menus and Buttons: Indicated by hot keys

Related Topics Hypertext: Initial cap., 12pt. Tahoma Bold, RGB: 51, 51, 204

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Index Abbreviations, 10, 12 initialism, 12

commas in a series, 3 coordinating conjunctions, 3

Abbreviations and Acronyms, 12

introductory clauses or phrases, 3

Addresses , 3

 parenthetical elements, element s, 4

 Ameri  Ame rica can nH Her erita itage ge Di Dict ction ionar aryy, 8

series, 3

and/or, 10

course work, 10

Appositives, 3

CSU, Chico, 10

California State University, Chico, 3, 10

Dashes, 4

Capitalization, 4

em dash, 4

articles, 4

en dash, 4

chapters, 4

 Deve  De velop lopin ing g Qua Qualit lityy T Tec echn hnica icall Inf Inform ormat atio ion n, 3

command, 4

disabled, 10

command button names, 4

E-mail Addresses, 9

complete sentence, 4

etc., 10

coordinating conjunctions, 4

Gender, 5

dialog box titles, 4

 pronouns  pron ouns,, 5

figures, 4

sexist language, 5

headings, 4

Grids, 13

icon, 4

help windows, 14

infinitive phrase, 4

 paper documents, 13, 14

Interface, 4

web pages, 13, 14

interface elements, 4

House Style, 1

letter, 4

Hyphenation, 5

letter or number, 4

compound adjective, 5

menu names, 4

key combinations, 5

 prepositions  prepos itions,, 4

modifiers, 5

scroll bar, 4 second-level headings, 4

 past or present pre sent part participle iciples, s, 5  post/ pre, 5

style sheet, 4

i.e. or e.g., 10

tables, 4

Internet, 10

titles, 4

it’s/its, 10

toolbar, 4

less/fewer, 11

verb phrase, 4

Lists, 6

Colons, 3

 bulleted, 6

Commas, 3

colons in, 6

appositives, 3

numbered, 6

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 parallelism  parall elism,, 6

essays, 9

 parenthese  paren thesess in, 6

lectures, 9

running text, 6

manuscripts,, 9 manuscripts

media, 11

question marks in, 8

medium, 11

sections in books, 9

menus, 11

short compositions, 9

 Micr  Mi cros osof oftt Man Manua uall o off S Sty tyle le fo forr Tec Techn hnic ical al Pu Publ blic icat atio ions ns, 2

songs, 9

money, 11

 Read  Read Me Firs First! t!, 2

non-, 10

seasons, 11

 Numbers, 6

Spacing, 8

approximations, 7

colons, 8

days, 7

 periods, 8

fractions, 7 large numbers, 7

Telephone Numbers, 8 area codes, 8

measurement, 7

Terms, 10

money, 7 numerals, 6

The Chicago Manual of Style: The Essential Guide for  Writers, 2

time, 7

Titles, 9

weeks, 7 word equivalents, 7

articles, 9 chapter titles, 9

years, 7

collections, 9

online, 11

collections of poetry, 9

Plurals, 8

drawings, 9

collective nouns, 8

essays, 9

committee, 8

italics, 9

criterion, 8

lectures, 9

faculty, 8

long poems, 9

medium, 8

manuscripts,, 9 manuscripts

memorandum, 8

motion pictures, 9

 parenthesis  paren thesis,, 8

musical compositions, 9

 phenomenon,  phenome non, 8 singular/plural words, 8

newspapers, 9 operas, 9

staff, 8

 paintings,  paintin gs, 9

Quotation Marks, 8

 pamphlets, 9

television and radio programs, 9

 papers read re ad at meetings, meetings , 9

articles, 9

 periodicals, 9

chapter titles, 9

 plays, 9

citation, 8

 poetry, 9

commas and periods, 8

 proceedings,  procee dings, 9

direct quotations, 8

 published  publi shed bo books, oks, 9

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quotation marks, 9 roman type, 9 sections in books, 9 short compositions, 9 songs, 9 statues, 9 television and radio programs, 9 titles of short stories, 9 works of art, 9 URLs, 9 Wired Style: Principles of English Usage in the  Di  Digi gita tall A Age ge, 2

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