How to copy-edit yourself: February uses and abuses of Slate’s style guide.

Slate’s Copy Desk Awards Its Redline of the Month

Slate’s Copy Desk Awards Its Redline of the Month

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Feb. 26 2015 11:56 AM
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Why It’s Slatesters, not Slate-sters

Overheard on email: Slate’s copy desk rounds up its February style and grammar rulings.

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Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Shutterstock.

Each month, copy chief Megan Wiegand sends Slate staffers a memo about the latest issues surfacing from the use of Slate’s style guide. The email also calls attention to one “redline of the month.” With light edits, we’ve reproduced Megan’s February dispatch below.

Hey everyone!

Welcome to the copy desk’s monthly update, your guide to style changes and Slate’s most common grammar missteps (and how to avoid them).

Stylebook changes:

Artificial intelligence, on second reference, is now A.I., not AI. Since we use a sans-serif font, AI could be confused with Al (lowercase L). (h/t Torie and Jon) 

Diacritical marks: Use only those associated with Romance languages. For instance: François Hollande, Cristina Fernández, Enrique Peña Nieto. But: Recep Tayyip Erdogan (not Erdoğan), Andris Berzins (not Bērziņš), etc.

Editor in chief: Hyphenate and capitalize before a name: Slate Editor-in-Chief Julia Turner likes coffee. Otherwise, lowercase and no hyphens: Julia Turner is Slate’s editor in chief.

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Slate-sters is now Slatesters, at Dan Kois’ request

A brief refresher on Slate’s Academy Awards–related style:

Academy Awards, aka the Oscars. (Both are trademarks.) Lowercase the academy and the awards whenever they stand alone.

Actor and actress: Actress is acceptable for a female performer. For mixed groups, actors is fine.

Formal award categories are title casing: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Album, etc.

Movie titles, including short films, go in italics. Song titles get quotation marks. Don’t forget Amazon links.

* * *

The Redline

Inspired by the New York Times’ wonderful After Deadline blog, the copy desk uses the following section to highlight a redline of the month—one error or style misstep making too-frequent appearances in the magazine. This edition’s focus: dates and days of the week.

If the date in question is within the past seven days or the next seven days, use the day of the week; if not, use the calendar date. “Today” is OK for use in blogs and TV-related articles (as well as a select few other cases). “Yesterday,” “tomorrow,” “last night,” “this morning,” and other time notations where the day of the week isn’t specific are best avoided. Examples:

On Monday and Tuesday—today and tomorrow—I, Slate writer Justin Peters, get to fulfill a lifelong dream of debasing myself on television in order to compete for large sums of money that I do not deserve.

 Strike “—today and tomorrow—.” The days of the week are sufficient here.

As was expected, the anti-austerity leftists of Syriza triumphed in yesterday's Greek elections, winning 36.3 percent of the vote and coming just a nose hair shy of winning an outright majority in the country's parliament.

“Yesterday’s” should be the day of the week—in this case, “Sunday’s.”

As my colleague Betsy Woodruff wrote last night, Republicans in the House just killed the vote on a bill that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks, even though a similar bill passed with ease last year in the same Republican-controlled body.

“Last night” here should be “Wednesday night.” Particularly with overnight or overseas events, “last night” can be unclear on when something happened—best to be specific.

This morning, Mario Draghi finally fired his bazooka. 

“This morning” should be “Thursday morning” here.

* * *

Send questions or suggestions my way. Thanks!

— Meg

Earlier dispatches from Slate’s copy desk:
The Evolution of Style