Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Detailing our style

Ever wondered why The Cavalier Daily formats the phrase "Web site" in the (seemingly archaic) way you see in print every day? Or why we always refer to the University of Virginia solely as "the University?" If you read The Cavalier Daily regularly and carefully, you might notice that we have a standardized set of terminology for the topics we cover often.

Why does this attention to detail matter? Most readers probably have never noticed policies about particular word choices. That's exactly how we want it. Varying our terminology — for example, switching between "the Education School" and "the Curry School" — has the potential to confuse and distract readers.

Even if one particular writer maintains consistency in how he refers to a particular institution, person or other object, he might still have different style preferences from other CD staff members. Like most newspapers, The Cavalier Daily tries to keep style consistent from article to article, and we rely on a number of resources to make sure our style remains the same. For general issues, we turn to the most recent edition of the Associated Press Stylebook, which sets style standards for reporters around the world.

But, as all U.Va. students know, the University of Virginia has its own unique lingo. There are no "seniors" here, and there's also no "campus." For first-time writers (and even those who have been with The Cavalier Daily a long time), the correct terms can be difficult to remember. As a result, we have our own 75-page Cavalier Daily Stylebook and Reference Manual, which covers everything from the proper way to refer to the University's current president (don't forget his middle initial or the "III" at the end) to whether it's acceptable to abbreviate the names of fraternities and sororities in print (it's not).

Next time you pick up a copy of The Cavalier Daily or are checking out the news online, pay attention to the style rules you see being applied. We hope that you'll have to hunt for them — if we're applying the rules correctly, they shouldn't be distracting you from the broader content of the article you're reading.

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