House styleguide

We like structure. As such, Boxes and Arrows uses the Associated Press Stylebook and Web Content Styleguide, but we also like to respect the following house style guidelines.

Tone and voice
Punctuation and form
Abbreviations
One word, not two
Using images
Author bios

Tone and voice

The tone of Boxes and Arrows is authoritative yet conversational, so write as if you are giving a brief, informal talk to a friendly group of professional peers. Given the diversity of the B&A readership, you should avoid oversimplifying your writing, but do define your terms and give context where possible. What is understandable to a librarian could baffle a graphic designer, and vice versa.

Be concise and judicious.

Justify the necessity of every word. A reader should not have to struggle to guess your meaning or wade through lots of unnecessary words in the process. Sidebars are handy for going into greater depth on a difficult subject or one that is slightly off-center from the focus of your article.

Show. Don’t tell.

The reader will have a better understanding of your topic if you provide examples throughout your story. Good candidates for assets include screenshots, illustrations, and a bibliography. See submission guidelines (link to Submission Guidelines page) for specifications on sending us these assets.

Speak to your audience.

B&A reaches a global audience, spanning a wide skill set of practitioners as well as those working with or hiring them. Readers work as both consultants and in-house employees on things like content architecture, interaction and interface design, and information design, helping to create and design of intranets, extranets, websites, software applications, content management systems as well as other types of information design projects. While they’ve been called many things over the years, some have stuck, including “information architect,” “interaction designer,” and “product manager.”

While some readers hold advanced degrees with familiar names (see above), others are just plain curious about the field. We open our arms to them all. We encourage you to do the same.

Teach something.

Remember that B&A readers are reading your article to learn, think, or see something new. Consequently, use concrete examples and anecdotes—nothing is duller than a page of high-level generalities. Explain how things work or why you made each important decision, or provide in-depth (but not pedantic) arguments and evidence in support of your point.

Punctuation and form

Em dashes

When em dashes are necessary to separate thoughts or create emphasis, they should be used without spaces on either side.

The story proposal was on business strategy and design thinking–topics of interest to her.

Serial comma

Use the serial comma for lists of three or more items.

He left the bookstore with a polar bear, a lemur, and a latte.

Which/That distinction

We observe the which/that distinction at all costs.

Abbreviations

While they should be spelled out in first references, use of common industry abbreviations is acceptable. If in doubt, put the abbreviation in parenthesis after the first reference: user experience (UX).

Common abbreviations are:
ED experience design
IA information architecture
ID interaction design, information design and less commonly, interface design. (Because of the multiple meanings, you should avoid using ID as an abbreviation unless the context is clear.)
ROI return on investment
UI user interface
UX user experience

One word, not two

With their increased use into standard vocabulary, the following words should always be used as one word, not two:

  • Flowchart
  • Homepage
  • Sitemap
  • Startup
  • Website
  • Wireframe

Using images

Image files should enhance the message of the article or feature and serve as examples of the topic you are writing about. Create images knowing that they may be resized and will eventually be presented at 72 dpi. Please save image files as GIF or JPG format at the highest resolution possible, up to 300 dpi.

Author bios

Each article is accompanied by a brief yet descriptive author bio. Although you will maintain the bio once the article is published, you must first submit it with your story. The bio should be about 50-75 words and relate, however loosely, to your professional life.