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In editing and updating existing content for www.fsfe.org, it's best to follow certain standard practices in style, in order that both information pages and news content remain consistent and above all, clear. This guide is not designed to impact on individual creativity. By providing basic parameters this guide intends that the hard work is done before editing begins, and that contributors can be as thoughtful in their writing as they wish.
Tone and Style
- Articles shouldn't feel like a sales pitch (even if what's being 'sold' is Free).
- Articles should be informative: they should center on a concept and detail that concept, breaking it down in longer pieces, using subtitles.
- Make sure that the articles are educated: it’s important that the writing sounds authoritative. If you use quotes, or refer to sources, link to them.
Spelling and Grammar
- Use preferably British English spelling, if you choose to do otherwise for some reason (e.g. interview, quote, etc.) stay consistent throughout the text.
- Use complete sentences. Avoid beginning sentences with ‘however’, ‘because’, or ‘so’.
- Numbers below 10 should be written in letters (one, two, three) but numbers above 10 must be in numbers ('167', not 'one hundred sixty seven')
- Don’t use dashes. Instead utilise colons, and semi colons.
- Almost always use abbreviated forms. For example: "it's" and not "it is"; "that's" and not "that is"; "they're" and not "they are".
- If the text is more than 500 words, break it up with sub-titles.
- Use short paragraphs. As a rule, aim for paragraphs between 30 and 45 words.
- The on-line marketing resource Copyblogger provides a very informative 10-step guide to copywriting. Of course, some of its points are sales orientated, but its general sentiment Is very useful indeed:
- Do not use footnotes. This ensures greater portability of the article to different mediums and formats, and also makes for easier reading, if handled carefully.
- Use the HTML abbr tag for acronyms and initialisms where appropriate. Note that this should not be used for the first instance of the use of the FSFE acronym, however.
- Don't make any attempt to paginate documents that are intended for publication on-line in the first instance.
- When referring to the activities, views etc. of FSFE, the organisation's name (or its acronym) should be used. Avoid use of 'we' and 'us' in text for publication. Occasionally using such terms can be useful for greater impact in headlines and tag-lines. In these cases text should always be in quotes. Use of the third person maintains portability, clarity and professionalism.
- 'Linux' is a kernel. GNU/Linux is an operating system. Use these terms accordingly in your writing to avoid confusion.
- In the first instance of FSFE being referred to in an article, the organisation should be written thus: FSFE (Free Software Foundation Europe). Articles may be distributed beyond the FSFE website, or later copied by readers to other locations. FSFE is a term which connotes nothing without explanatory text of the meaning of the acronym.
- Free Software should be referred to as Free Software. Not FOSS, FLOSS or OSS. Free Software and Open Source software is one and the same thing, approached from different points of view - they serve the same referential purpose (which is not to say that they communicate the same thing). Therefore compounded acronyms refer to the same thing twice in one term, which makes little sense, and encourages misunderstanding. We deal with Free Software, and thus we call it Free Software.