Please send us your polished, complete manuscripts. Proof carefully. Follow this style sheet. Note: This style sheet attempts to cover the basic style rules for the Washington Writers’ Publishing House. It is your first source for style. If a style issue is not covered here, please consult the fifteenth edition of The Chicago Manual of Style and the latest edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (www.m-w.com). We are thankful to the folks at One Story, for we fully admit that their document forms the basis of this guide.


1.1 Italics

• Use italics (rather than quotation marks or capital letters) in the following situations:

             • For special emphasis (e.g., “Whatever can go wrong will go wrong”).

             • For words used as words (e.g., “The meaning of the word doughnut is . . .”).

             • For letters used as symbols (e.g., “x axis”).

             • For the titles of books, periodicals, or newspapers—as well as for song titles (please note: do not include lyrics in your works unless absolutely essential.  You will then need to get permission for copyright holder).

If the word the is part of the official title of a newspaper or periodical, it is lowercase and roman in text (e.g., the New York Times).

1.2 Quotation Marks

• Commas and periods always precede the closing quotation marks.

• Colons, semicolons, question marks, and exclamation points always follow the closing quotation marks unless a question mark or an exclamation point belongs within the quoted matter.

1.3 Commas

Use serial comma, per Chicago 6.19: “When a conjunction joins the last two elements in a series, a comma—known as the serial or series comma or the Oxford comma—should appear before the conjunction” (e.g., “securities, stocks, and bonds”).

• Use commas between independent clauses per Chicago 6.32: “Conjunctions between clauses. When independent clauses are joined by and, but, or, so, yet, or any other conjunction, a comma usually precedes the conjunction. (e.g., “Style sheets are fun, so I read mine every day”). If the clauses are very short and closely connected, the comma may be omitted (e.g., “Style sheets are fun and they rock”).

• Use a parenthetical comma:

             South Orange, New Jersey, needs a Greek restaurant.

             Kathleen Wheaton, writer and editor, knows her way around a parenthetical comma.


• No comma between season and year or month and year (e.g., summer 2013, April 2013).

• Per Chicago Manual of Style Online, use commas with too only when you want to emphasize an abrupt change of thought (e.g., “He wasn’t prepared for the tedium of the style sheet, but then, too, he’d never spent much time in the company of copyeditors”). No need for a comma before too at the end of a sentence too.

• Comma or no comma between adjectives: per Chicago 6.39, when a noun is preceded by two or more adjectives that could, without affecting the meaning, be joined by and (i.e., coordinating adjectives), the adjectives are normally separated by commas (e.g., “Adina is a keen, ruthless editor”). But if the noun and the adjective immediately preceding it are conceived as a unit, such as “softball player” or “fiction writers” no comma should be used (e.g., “One Story publishes only the finest fiction writers.”)

1.4 Colons

• What follows a colon may be either a full sentence, a list, or a phrase. (See 3.2 re capitalization of the first word following a colon.)

1.5 Semicolons

• A semicolon may be used between independent clauses not joined by a conjunction (e.g., “Style sheets are fun; I read mine every day”). A semicolon may not be used between an independent clause and a dependent clause. See Chicago 6.57.

1.6 Em-dash, En-dash, and Hyphen

There are two kinds of dashes, which are distinguishable by their length: the em-dash (which is as wide as the capital M) and the en-dash (which is half as wide as an em-dash). Both are distinct from the even shorter hyphen. See The Chicago Manual of Style and/or A Dictionary of Modern American Usage to learn about the exciting uses of these elements of punctuation. Here are but a few:

• Use em-dashes to mark an interruption in the structure of a sentence (e.g., “The readers of One Story are cool—it cannot be denied,” or “One Story’s readers—known far and wide for being cool—tend to have many friends”).

             Hint: if you type two consecutive hyphens, Word will automatically convert them into an

             em-dash. You can also use the option + shift + hyphen key on a Mac to create an em-dash. 

• Use en-dashes in numerical ranges (e.g., “I survived the doughnut shortage of 1994–1999”) and in compound adjectives where one or more element is an open term (e.g., “I love New Jersey–based editors”).

             Hint: to insert an en-dash in Word, go to Insert, select Symbol from the dropdown menu,

             and click the Special Characters tab. You can also use  option + minus to create an en-dash.

• Use a hyphen in terms where two nouns are equal (e.g., “editor-publisher”) and in compound adjectives consisting of single-word elements (e.g., “single-word elements”).

             Hint: to type a hyphen, type a hyphen.

1.7 Plurals

• Add only s (no apostrophe) to make plurals of terms that consist of all capital letters or numbers (e.g., ABCs, three Bs, RBIs, 1980s, 2s).

• Use an apostrophe with s for the plural of lowercase terms (e.g., Aa’s, x’s).

• Be aware of the singular and plural forms of words taken directly from Latin and Greek:

             criterion, criteria

             datum, data*

             medium, media

             phenomenon, phenomena

             stratum, strata

*In general usage, data is now accepted as an abstract mass noun (like information), taking a singular verb and singular modifiers and being referred to by a singular pronoun. If the author prefers to use data as a singular noun, fine.

1.6 Possessives (See Chicago 7.17–7.23)

• General rules (add ’s to singular nouns and an apostrophe only to plural nouns) apply to proper names (including those ending in s, x, or z), letters, and numbers (e.g., Brooklyn’s oceanfront, Dickens’s novels, The Beatles’ records, the Williamses’ house, JFK’s assassination, 2011’s record-breaking snowfall).

• Proper nouns ending in an unpronounced s or in an eez sound form the plural in the usual way by adding an apostrophe and an s (e.g., the marquis’s father, Francois’s ideas, the Ganges’s source, Mercedes’s reputation).

1.7 Ellipsis Points

• Per Chicago 11.45, and despite what I have believed all these years[1], ellipsis points (three spaced dots) “may be used to suggest faltering or fragmented speech accompanied by confusion or insecurity.” But . . . I  . . . still . . . don’t . . . like it! Usually one sees ellipsis points used this way in poorly written books; if you don’t believe me, grab a paperback off the rack next time you’re at the airport. So let’s try to avoid this usage and save ellipsis points only to indicate the omission of a word, phrase, sentence, or more from a quoted piece of text. To indicate a pause, hesitation, or interrupted dialogue, use an em-dash when possible.

1.8 Paragraphs

• Per Chicago 11.43, a change in speaker is usually indicated by a new paragraph, though we may sometimes choose to ignore this rule for the sake of rhythm, etc. (as in the last line of Charles Haverty’s “Storm Windows,” where a paragraph break would have irreparably disrupted the flow).


2.1 Numerals vs. Spelled-Out Numbers

• Per Chicago 9.3: Chicago’s general rule. The following are spelled out: whole numbers from one through one hundred (e.g., thirty-two readers, 112 readers), round numbers (e.g., two thousand readers, thirty million readers), and any number beginning a sentence. For other numbers, numerals are used. For the numerous exceptions and special cases, see Chapter 9.

• Spell out all ordinals that can be expressed in one or two words (e.g., twenty-fifth anniversary, twentieth century).

• Spell out indefinite numbers and amounts (e.g., reader in her thirties, thousands of readers).

• Spell out simple fractional quantities except in mixed numbers (e.g., two-thirds, three-quarters, a half pound of doughnuts, 4½ times as many doughnuts).

• Use commas in numbers of four or more digits (e.g., 3,000).

• Use numerals for phone numbers (e.g., “We are out of doughnuts. Call 911!”)

• Spell out decades, lowercase, per Chicago 8.77 (e.g., the seventies, the late sixties).

• Per Chicago 9.34, use an apostrophe and numerals for abbreviated years (e.g. the spirit of ’76).

• Per Chicago 9.41, times of day in even, half, and quarter hours are usually spelled out in text (e.g., five in the morning, half past seven, seven-thirty, five-fifteen, quarter of four). With o’clock, the number is always spelled out.

 • Per Chicago 9.56, names of numbered streets, avenues, and so forth are usually spelled out if one hundred or less (e.g., Sixteenth Street, 122nd Street).

2.2 Exceptions to Chicago’s General Rule

Here are but a few exceptions to the general rules set out in section 2.1.

• Use numerals for dates (e.g., January 6, January 1988).

• Use numerals for amounts of money (e.g., $7, $12 million, 5 cents).

             NOTE: Repeat the dollar sign (but not the word dollar) in ranges (e.g., $2 million to $3

             million, $5 to $10, 25 to 30 dollars).

• Use numerals for percentages (e.g., 3 percent, 30 to 40 percent).

             NOTE: Spell out percent.

• Use numerals and a.m. or p.m. for times of day that are not even, half, or quarter hours (e.g., 7:32 a.m., 9:16 p.m.). Also use numerals and a.m. or p.m. for even, half, or quarter hours when there is an emphasis on the precise time (e.g., 7:30 p.m. sharp, at exactly 7:30 p.m.) or in a line of dialogue where the speaker actually says a.m. or p.m. (e.g., “We’ll leave at 5 a.m., so don’t be late”). 


3.1 General

Brand and company names spelled with a lowercase initial letter followed by a capital letter, such as eBay and iPod, do not need to be capitalized when used as the first word of a sentence.

3.2 Capitalization after a Colon

• Per Chicago 6.64 (and per Garner, p. 675), the first word after a colon should be lowercase. Exceptions: capitalize the first word after a colon only when the material following the colon (1) consists of two or more sentences, (2) is a quoted sentence, or (3) is a direct question.

3.3 Abbreviations and Initials

• Omit periods in acronyms and abbreviations consisting of two or more capital letters (e.g., BA, CDC, CEO, FBI, MA, MFA, MBA, MD, PhD, USA).

• Use periods with abbreviations that end in lowercase letters (e.g., e.g., i.e., a.m., p.m., Ms.). The abbreviations i.e. (“that is”) and e.g. (“for example”) should always be followed by a comma.

• Era designations should be full caps and no periods. Note that AD (anno Domini, in the year of the Lord) precedes the year number, and BC (before Christ) follows (e.g., AD 1066, 44 BC).

• Names of states and countries should be spelled out. United States and United Kingdom: use abbreviation with periods as an adjective, spell out as a noun (e.g., U.S. readers but readers in the United States).

• Do not close up initials standing for given names (e.g., A. M. Homes), but with initials alone or in names of corporations, there should be no space (e.g., A.M., J.D. Power and Associates).

3.4 Titles and Headings

• Per Chicago’s headline style (Chicago 8.167), always capitalize the first and last words in a title and all other major words (nouns, pronouns, verbs—including wee ones such as be and is—adjectives, adverbs, and some conjunctions).

• Lowercase prepositions, regardless of length, except when they are used adverbially or adjectivally (e.g., up in Look Up, down in Turn Down, on in The On Button), are used as conjunctions (e.g., before in Look Before You Leap), or are part of a Latin expression used adjectivally or adverbially (e.g., De Facto, In Vitro).

• Lowercase the articles the, a, and an.

• Lowercase the conjunctions and, but, for, or, and nor.

• Lowercase the words to and as in any grammatical function.

• The first word following an em-dash or ellipsis points is lowercase if fewer than five letters and is an article, preposition, or conjunction.

• The first word following a colon is always capitalized.

• Capitalize both parts of a hyphenated word unless the first element is merely a prefix or combining form that could not stand by itself, in which case do not capitalize the second element (e.g., Anti-intellectual, Dot-com).

• For company and brand names that begin with a lowercase letter, retain the company’s style (e.g., eBay, iPhone).


This section addresses areas in which grammar and usage mistakes often occur.

4.1 Grammar

• A sentence may end with a preposition to avoid an awkward rewrite. Nothing to be afraid of!

• An adverb may split an infinitive or verb phrase to tactfully avoid an awkward rewrite.

4.2 Usage

• Observe the distinction between that and which. That introduces a restrictive clause; which introduces a nonrestrictive clause. Rule of thumb: if you see a which without a comma before it, nine times out of ten it needs to be a that. The one other time, it needs to be a comma. Your choice, then, is between comma-which and that. Use that whenever you can.

• Observe the distinction between comprise and compose. The parts compose the whole; the whole comprises the parts. The whole is composed of the parts; the parts are comprised in the whole. The phrase is comprised of is always wrong.

• Observe the distinction between farther and further. Farther refers to physical distance; further refers to figurative distance.

• Observe the distinction between who and whom. Who, the nominative pronoun, is used (1) as the subject of a verb (e.g., “It was Adina who ate the doughnut”) and (2) as the complement of a linking verb, i.e., as a predicate nominative (e.g., “They know who you are”). Whom, the objective pronoun, is used (1) as the object of a verb (e.g., “Whom did you see?”) and (2) as the object of a preposition (e.g., “Adina is the person from whom we get doughnuts”). If, after reading this, you still have trouble with who and whom, join the club.

• Observe the distinction between awhile and a while. After a preposition, it should be spelled as two words (e.g., “Hannah edited for a while”). Generally, however, it’s best to use the term adverbially without the preposition and spell it as one word (e.g., “Hannah edited awhile”).

• Observe the distinction between lie and lay. Writes Garner, “[S]ome commentators believe that people make this mistake [using lay when they mean lie] more often than any other in the English language.” Very simply, lie (= to recline, be situated) is intransitive, meaning it can’t take a direct object (e.g., “I lie around the One Story office”) whereas lay (= to put down, arrange) is always transitive—it needs a direct object (e.g., “Please lay down your pencil on Adina’s desk”). What makes this verb pair tricky is that lay is also the past tense of lie (i.e., “Today I lie low, but yesterday I lay low”).

Verb                  Present tense     Past tense          Past participle   Present participle

lay                     lay                     laid                    laid                    laying

lie                      lie                      lay                     lain                    lying

• Observe the distinction between “each other” (referring to two people or entities) and “one another” (referring to more than two people or entities).

• Other words to watch out for:

             affect, effect

             assure, ensure, insure

             forward, toward (no s) but afterwards, backwards (with s)

             cite, site


5.1 Dictionary & Spelling Guide

Follow Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (www.m-w.com) for spelling and hyphenation. Use the first form shown when several spellings are given. If a word combination is not shown as hyphenated or closed up or does not appear in the dictionary, make it separate words.

5.2 Compounds

• Avoid using hyphens to connect easily understood combinations of nouns (e.g., decision making) except in cases where a misreading is possible, per Chicago 7.85, e.g. “fast decision-making shows that decisions (not snap judgments) must be made soon.”

• Use a hyphen for adjectival modifiers that become easier to understand if they are grouped together (e.g., one-sided story, brown-and-red doughnut). Per Chicago 7.85, “[I]t is never incorrect to hyphenate adjectival compounds before a noun.” However, per Chicago 7.85, “Where no ambiguity could result, as in public welfare administration or graduate student housing, hyphenation is not mandatory…” Our rule of thumb at One Story: Avoid overuse of hyphens in adjectival compounds preceding a noun. Use the hyphen principally to clarify, when the absence of a hyphen could result in ambiguity or a misreading.

• Do not use a hyphen to join an –ly adverb to the adjective it qualifies (e.g., highly developed intelligence).

• Two-word compounds hyphenated before a noun usually need not be hyphenated after a noun (e.g., “The well-loved editor was very well loved”).

5.3 Prefixes & suffixes

• Join prefixes directly to words:
























             • Two i’s in a row (e.g., anti-inflationary).

             • Prefix followed by a hyphenated word (e.g., non-interest-bearing account).

             • Prefix followed by the same prefix (e.g., sub-subgroup, re-record, super-superpile).

             Prefix followed by a capital letter (pro-Brooklyn, mid-July).

             NOTE: Use an en-dash, not a hyphen, when one or more of the elements in a compound

             adjective are open compounds (e.g., pre–World War II doughnuts).

• Words commonly used as elements in a compound may or may not be joined.

Examples of elements joined directly to the word:





             • Like when added to words ending in l (e.g., bell-like).

             • Like and wide when added to words of four or more syllables (e.g., university-wide,


Examples of elements that are not joined directly to the word:

             • Near: near collision (open before a noun); near-fatal accident (hyphenated before an         adjective).

             • Self: self-conscious, self-government (both adjective and noun forms hyphenated).

5.4 Proper Names

• To verify company names, go to the company’s website and check either its copyright line or its press releases. Do not use the style in the company logo, as a company logo does not always reflect the formal company name. Below is a sampling of some often-used proper names.











Procter & Gamble






5.5 House Spelling List

The following alphabetical list gives examples of spelling and hyphenation:

blond (not blonde)

canceled (not cancelled)

-care: healthcare, daycare, eldercare


e-words (with the exception of email, retain hyphen):  e-book, e-commerce

God (capitalized per Webster’s when referring to, you know, God)

god (lowercase in other contexts, e.g., “She was the god of proofreading”)

OK (not O.K. or okay)

good-bye (not goodbye)

google, googling (lowercase when used as a verb)

Google (uppercase when referring to the company)

gray (not grey, unless there’s a reason to use the British spelling)

Internet (capitalized), the net

minuscule (not miniscule!)




résumé (retain accent marks)


toward (not towards, unless there’s a reason to use the British preference)

T-shirt (not t-shirt or tee shirt)


web-related words: World Wide Web, the web, web address, web page, web-based, web-centric,

             website, webmaster, webcast, webcam, webzine

Wi-Fi (trademark)

We look forward to reading your work–your polished, proofed, and complete manuscripts.