This is an ad hoc page to collect thoughts on project style. As a matter of principle, the issue of style should always take a back seat to the task of adding good information to Bhamwiki. In no case should anyone get bogged down in debates over this sort of thing. If mired in doubt, use AP style or Wikipedia guidelines, or discuss on the talk page. Additions or changes to this guide can be discussed at Bhamwiki talk:Style or Bhamwiki talk:Messageboard.
- I prefer to omit the dot after abbreviations that end with the last letter of the word (St, Mr, Dr, Rd, Mt, Jr, Bros, etc.)
- We generally omit commas before suffixes to names (Mortimer Jordan Jr or William Walker Sr) (see Style#Names of people)
- It's best to avoid abbreviations like "18th St S" or "5th Av SW". (see Style#Streets and Highways)
- I've typically been using ampersands in the names of partnerships and businesses (Warren, Knight & Davis, Fun & Stuff) unless another alternate is consistently used (Jim 'N Nick's Bar-B-Q). Plus signs used instead of ampersands (Hendon + Huckestein Architects) aren't easy to accommodate and I'm not always inclined to indulge the affectation.
- Typically, lists of dates or events will follow chronological order. Mature, lengthy articles will forego lists in favor of more qualitative divisions (early years, peak years, decline, etc). See discussion at Messageboard#Chronological_order
- Article titles should be disambiguated only when necessary (i.e. 19th Street North Bessemer, but not Dolonah Road Bessemer). Note that streets in Southwest Birmingham, Ensley and Pratt tend to have those descriptors as part of the actual name of the street.
- When disambiguating between something in Birmingham and something in another city, the Birmingham version can keep the primary name (i. e. Triangle Park and Triangle Park (Pinson)). However, if the other one is by far the best known, then it would be the primary (I can't think of an example).
- Some titles work better with the disambiguation in parentheses such as Empire Hotel (1912). Others, where the disambiguation is commonly used, are OK without, such as Homewood Central Park.
- Uploaded images should be named so that the subject is clearly indicated (i.e. "Denny Chimes.jpg" rather than "IMG_1075.JPG".
- For historical images, its helpful to lead with the date. (i.e. "1967 Ariail Drug Co ad.png" rather than "ad for ariail.png".
- The following conventions have emerged as practical, at least in my view:
- Portraits of people should generally use the standard thumbnail size (180px by default), I generally don't specify a width. Sometimes a really good-looking photo (like Gail Patrick) or an the odd wide-format (Hoyt Sanders) or super-narrow image (like Geneva Mercer) demands individual consideration. Sometimes lengthy articles just seem to want a larger image.
- Most images of locations, etc. used as the sole or primary illustration for an article look best to me at 450px, aligned right at the top of the page (Highland Avenue). Other images may be smaller and stagger left to right if there's a lot of body text (1911 Banner Mine explosion), align to the right if that makes more sense (Talley mounds), or be grouped into a gallery (Seal of Alabama)
- Logos don't generally need to be more than thumbnail (180px) width, but usually look better without the thumbnail frame.
- Some images are by nature very wide and need extra space. These should usually be uploaded at 575 or 1150 pixels wide and displayed, centered, at 575px (Railroad Park). For a while, I was happier with 800 pixel width banner images, such as at Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad Company. Now I don't mind slightly larger ones, such as a 925 pixel display of the 1600 pixel wide File:Birmingham mural banner.jpg. The File:Jefferson County Courthouse 1889.jpg is perhaps pushing it.
- Maps, aerial views or expansive photos with lots and lots of detail might work better as links (Image:Rickwood site plan.png, which right now serves as a COUNTER example).
Names and titles of people
- Article titles for people should generally use the most familiar name, whether it is their given name, initials, or a nickname. (i. e. Shug Jordan, Country Boy Eddie, A. D. King, William Elias B. Davis). It can be hard to determine whether persons documented before World War II or so actually went around being addressed by their initials or not. Often I will use their name to avoid having to disambiguate all the G. W.s and B. F.s.
- Suffixes, middle names and initials should only be used in article titles where they are very familiar or where needed to disambiguate. (i. e. E. O. Wilson, Earl Hilliard Jr)
- Honorifics and formal titles generally should be left off, except in the introduction of an article, where needed for clarification, or where they are the most familiar referent. (i. e. Brother Bryan, Mother Angelica)
- When used, multiple initials should have a space between them. (i. e. T. C. Cannon), except that we tend to push the "U.S." in "U.S. Army" and the "D.C." in "Washington D.C." together.
- Per the arguments made here, Bhamwiki will use one "l" in "councilor". --Dystopos 13:09, 15 December 2009 (PST)
- Only the first word in article names and section headings should be capitalized unless it is a proper name or referring to the title of a work (e. g. Cahaba lily; Stay Hungry)
- In citations, I generally follow the source, except where the source places a title in ALL CAPS, I tend to use sentence case (like modern newspaper headings). This isn't terribly important.
- Building names can be ambiguous. Some are definitely part of the proper name of the building (Crow Building), but others are not, in which case I tend to use lower case (Birmingham News building, Theodore Swann residence).
- In current AP style, the term "Black", when used to make a racial, ethnic or cultural distinction, is capitalized, along with "Indigenous", "Native American," "African American", etc. AP does not currently capitalize "white" in the same sense, though apparently that exception is under consideration. See Bhamwiki:Style#Race and ethnicity for more.
Streets and Highways
- The names of numbered streets use the ordinal number and spell everything else out. For example, use 1st Avenue North, 7th Court South, 8th Street Southwest, and 20th Street Ensley. Where the context is evident, they can be "piped" to appear shorter (i. e. [[18th Street South Homewood|18th Street South]] produces 18th Street South.) It's best not to use abbreviations like "18th St S" or "5th Av SW".
- I tend to use the names of streets as proper nouns. References to "8th avenue, north" or "N. 19th st." in older publications strike me as outmoded.
- Outside of Birmingham proper and its inner suburbs, neighborhood or subdivision streets without much importance should not be linked. The names of neighborhoods and subdivisions themselves should generally be linked.
- Articles about U. S. or Alabama state routes should be titled "U.S. Highway X" or "Alabama State Highway Y". Redirects to those pages may be created for shorter names, such as "State Highway Y" or simply "Highway X".
- Descriptions of historical events should typically use the past tense. Descriptions of current and lasting conditions should use the present. When writing about imminent changes (the appointment of a new principal, for example), the past tense can be used to avoid having to rewrite the article a few days later. If circumstances prevent the appointment, that's probably big news and the article would be updated anyway.
- Bhamwiki has followed the AP Stylebook (pre 2020) and Black's Law Dictionary in preferring "pleaded" as the past tense of "to plead" (as in "Flynn pleaded guilty."). Note also that, technically, one cannot plead innocent in a court of law, but can enter a plea of not-guilty. These niceties (or pedantries) are not consistently upheld. I have noted that pleas for the use of "pled" are increasing.
- Not so much a matter of style as a matter of fact: Often a news report will give a person's age but leave the actual date of birth unclear, meaning they could have been born in one of two years. I have typically used rounding to assume that if someone is listed as 20 years old in the first half of 2008, that they were likely born in 1987, and if the article appears in the second half of the year, that they were born in 1988. This is prone to error, but the error of being off by a fraction of a year seems to me better than the error of omission. It can always be corrected later. The practice of using "c. 1988" to point out the uncertainty can be helpful.
A lot of Bhamwiki's categorization has been trial-and-error. The main lessons to be learned are that (a) categorizing benefits from big-picture thinking and (b) making changes that involve several articles can be a real pain. With that in mind, here are a few practical tips:
- Use caution when creating new categories. Look at the natural parent category and, if there aren't too many entries, maybe just stick it in there for now. You might also discover an existing subcategory that fits what you were trying to accomplish.
- A frequent inconsistency which I've helped propagate is an uncertainty regarding articles and categories with the same name. Right now I can only suggest thinking about whether the subject of the main article fits better in the category than the collected subjects of all other articles in that category. For example, Sloss Furnaces itself belongs to Category:National Historic Landmarks while some of the articles in Category:Sloss Furnaces don't contribute to that designation.
- For drilling down by location, I like for a business or tenant to be categorized within a building, and for the building to be categorized on a street (and/or a block if downtown). For streets that continue through several distinct areas, it is often best to eventually create separate subcategories, such as Category:Montgomery Highway (Vestavia Hills).
Names of businesses
Many factors can come into play when deciding on the name of a business to use as the name of the article. Over time, owners and reporters can be wildly inconsistent in the details of spelling (BBQ vs Barbecue vs Bar-B-Q), punctuation (Jim and Nick's vs Jim 'N Nick's vs Jim & Nick's), etc., especially over time and across media.
- Since we're interested in writing for general readers, we should give weight to the common names by which businesses are known. (Though we should not go so far as to preserve common errors, such as using "Britling's" as the main entry for Britling Cafeteria, for example.)
- Since we're interested in serving posterity, we should give weight to names which have served longer tenures, especially through a business' "heyday".
- If the building has permanent signage, then that is probably the best name to use, as it reflects an enduring way the business introduces itself to the public.
- Redirects from other common names are very helpful. Where different names reflect different owners or different business models even if the basic business is somewhat continuous, it may be worth considering separate articles. (For example, if a radio station changes its call letters but still plays the same format for the same owners, a redirect is probably enough, but if the format or owners also changed, maybe a new article works better.)
AP style recommends not using abbreviations for units of measurement and using hyphens only when creating adjectives. ("The five-foot-eleven-inch freshman grew to six feet two inches in his four years on campus.")
Academic degrees and fields
I prefer the Chicago Manual of Style recommendation not to capitalize academic degrees (master of arts, bachelor of science), to capitalize but not insert periods in their abbreviations (MA, JD, PhD), and not to treat academic subjects (other than languages) as proper nouns (BS in criminal justice, MA in library services). That said, I'm slow to abbreviate unless it's getting really unwieldy.
Race and ethnicity
There is helpful guidance from the Associated Press for using various terms to describe or reference race and ethnicity accurately and sensitively. (APStylebook.com/race-related-coverage). I do appreciate affirmation of my editorial practice to, "Consider carefully when deciding whether to identify people by race."
These guidelines have evolved somewhat quickly, and present a strong contrast to the use of language in many historical sources relating to the Birmingham District. It may be helpful to refer to the larger Bhamwiki:Philosophy when weighing alternatives that affect the quality, accessibility, accuracy or neutrality of our content.
And although Bhamwiki's style as I have practiced it, tends to be slow to capitalize, I do support the recent change to AP style to capitalize "Black" (as an adjective) in a racial, ethnic or cultural sense. Note that the AP has also opted to remove the hyphen from African American, both as a noun and as an adjective.
For my own purposes, I have tended to follow this format:
- Last, First, First Last & First Last (Date) "Title of entry (linked if durable)," in Title of Publication. Publisher. ISBN #, page #s - accessdate if linked
I also tend to order the citations in the references section chronologically by the date of original publication. I have not been consistent, nor do I try to enforce consistency. I tend to err on the side of under-punctuation and under-capitalization. I'm just trying to help people find the sources.