Typewriter letters, photo by Laineys RepertoireThe Spiral Nature Style Guide aims to provide an evolving set of standards for writing about magick, alternative spirituality, and occulture.

Generally, Spiral Nature’s style follows The Canadian Press Stylebook, supplemented by The Chicago Manuel of Style, with our preferred dictionary being The Canadian Oxford English Dictionary, save for a few occultnik quirks. (See also “Spiral Nature Lexicon.”)

Please note this style guide is a work in progress, and that it may not yet be implemented across the entire site (particularly for works published prior to 2013).

Quick Hits

  • Religions are capitalized. Practices aren’t.
  • Spell out acronyms for the first usage.
  • Make sure the subject, person, media or organization written about or interviewed is mentioned in the title or subheading.
  • Always identify people by their full names and organizations with their full titles the first time they are mentioned.
  • Write out addresses (23 Eris Lane), states and provinces (Saskatchewan), and measurements (5 feet, but 42 km).

Formatting

Article titles and headlines

Capitalize first word, and then lowercase the rest, unless it is a proper name.

Make sure the subject, person, media or organization written about or interviewed is mentioned in the title or subheading.

Review titles should be: Book Title, by Author. (The subtitle may be included in the book details within the post itself.)

Citation

Websites – When citing website titles, the name should be in capitals, for example, Spiral Nature. (Note the lack of italicization.) For domains, drop the www (e.g. spiralnature.com) and don’t vanity cap (e.g. never SpiralNature.com). When citing a blog post or an article, enclose it within quotation marks, e.g. “This great post,” by Lady Frieda Harris.

Book, film, television, and album titles should be italicized.

Titles for poems, chapters, episodes, and songs should be enclosed within quotation marks.

Tarot decks should be capitalized, but not italicized.

Footnotes

Page numbers should be footnoted. These and any other footnotes can be rendered by placing them within double brackets, after punctuation (commas, periods, etc.).

Style

Abbreviations and acronyms

Abbreviations and acronyms should be used on second and subsequent references, and only when understood by our audience, unless the group or organization is largely referred to by its acronym. For example, the Ordo Templi Orientis should be referred to in full on first reference, after which it can be shorted to the OTO, however the A.’.A.’. is another matter. (Isn’t it always?)

Generally omit periods in acronyms as they clutter the text.

Capitalization

Religions are capitalized: Buddhism, Christianity, Discordianism, Islam, Judaism, Paganism, Satanism, Thelema, Wicca, etc.

Practices are not capitalized: astrology, ceremonial magick, chaos magick, hermeticism, kabbalah, meditation, yoga, etc.

Capitalize religious holidays, feasts, and formal observances: Candlemas, Equinox of the Gods, Gurnenthar’s Ascendance, Samhain, Winter Solstice, etc.

Capitalize all words in the titles of books, broadcast programs, films, plays, poems, songs, speeches, works of art and other compositions, except for articles, conjunctions or prepositions (e.g. “the,” “an,” “in,” “by”).

Follow company and organizational capitalization standards: eBay, TOPY, etc.

Job titles and occupations are not generally capitalized, nor are order titles. For example, Jane Doe is a priestess in the Happy Moon Coven.

Please do not Randomly Capitalize Words. Capitalization is not to be used for emphasis. If you want to stress a point, write well. If you really must stress a point, use italics – sparingly.

ALL CAPS is not cruise control for cool.

Dates and times

Generally CE (Common Era) and BCE (Before Common Era) are the preferred date markers, as they are culturally neutral, unless there is a specific reason for using an alternative dating system, in which case, also list the date in Common Era in brackets.

When citing centuries, follow numeral guidelines. For example, sixth century BCE, 18th century — note the lack of superscript.

Years and decades are written as follows: 1980s, the ’80s. No misplaced possessive decades, please.

Write days of the week and months in full. For example, Thursday, not Thurs.

Don’t use suffixes on dates, and place the date before the month. For example, 23 May 1969.

Drop periods from am and pm, leave a space between the time and indicator, e.g. 5:23 pm.

Write the numbers in times in full. For example, 9 pm, not nine pm.

Numerals

Generally, numbers from zero to nine are written out, 10 and up as numerals. When you reach the thousands and up, separate with a comma (e.g. 10,000). When you reach millions, use the number followed by millions (e.g. 45 million).

Spell out a number if it is the first word in a sentence, or write around it so you don’t have to.

“Over” is something you can physically move over, “more than” is used with numbers.

Proper names and formal titles

People – The first time a name appears, list their full name and title. Later mentions can be dropped to surname only. We can assume our readers are familiar with certain popular figures (e.g. Helena Blavatsky, Aleister Crowley, Austin Osman Spare, Starhawk, etc.), and figures from pop culture (Lady Gaga, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sting, I mean Constantine, I mean…), but more obscure characters should contain some note of who they are.

Organizations – The first time it appears it should contain the full title, while later mentions can be dropped to initials: Ordo Templi Orientis on first appearance, OTO thereafter.

Honorifics – Drop Mr., Mrs., Ms., and Miss. Keep Dr. for medical doctors, if relevant.

Titles — Cut titles wherever possible. The first reference can be “High Priestess Jane Doe,” but afterwards can simply be referred to as “Doe.”

Punctuation

Apostrophes

Use contractions whenever possible, unless there’s a specific reason not to do so.

Use apostrophes to show word or letter omissions: rock ‘n’ roll, ne’er, ’til; and for the omission of figures, for example, 1920s becomes ’20s.

Know your possessives and plurals, and ensure the correct word choice (your/you’re, its/it’s, whose/who’s).

Backslash

Used to separate lines of poetry or song lyrics when quoting a small sample, otherwise use “and.” No and/ors, please.

Dashes

Hyphen — Generally used to form compound words (e.g. ex-Thelemite). Generally it can be omitted for words that have come into common usage (e.g. coordinate). Use hyphens with a successive compound adjective. For example 16th- and 17th-century texts; 10-, 20-, and 30-second intervals.

Em dash — Usually used to set up info that is explanatory or to add a particular emphasis within a sentence. It can sometimes be used as an alternative to a parenthesis or a colon.

En dash — Poor misunderstood, overlooked dash. For a sense of completeness, let’s include it. It’s the dash used to connect things, usually dates, times, scores, etc. On the Web, the hyphen tends to serve in its place.

Commas

I like the Oxford comma. Use it.

Ellipses

Three dots (only!) and a space. “I wondered… why bother?”

Use sparingly, please.

Quotation marks

Place punctuation within quotation marks: Larry said, “You’re swell, Enid.” “I hope you die in a fire,” Enid replied. “You’re a complete tool, Lar.”

Don’t stack quotes. Break up the text by paraphrasing and save the best bits for direct quotation. A writer can still attribute the info to the source while providing context and trimming unnecessary bulk.

When using blockquotes quotation marks can be omitted, unless necessary to convey speech or additional quoted material within the block.

Add clarifications or fill in omissions within square brackets. “Brendan Myer’s latest book on Pagan philosophy [The Earth, The Gods, and The Soul] was fantastic,” says Psyche.

Use the present tense (e.g. “says,” “writes,” “notes,”) unless the speaker or subject is dead and you’re communicating with them from beyond the grave. (Yeah, I guess we’re that kind of website.)

Titles for poem titles, chapters, episodes, and songs should be enclosed within quotation marks.

Quotation marks are not to be used for emphasis. Saying Larry’s… car… is “really” big doesn’t supercharge “really.” Instead it suggests that this is being said ironically, and that it is in fact quite a small car.

Special considerations

Use inclusive language. With a global audience in mind, please avoid using language that could be considered offensive to any culture, heritage, class, or gender expression.

Avoid generalizations. If you have a point you’d like to make, back it up with fact-checked statistics.

Spiral Nature does not encourage sex or gender essentialism. Gender is a spectrum, and we strive be inclusive. As such, gender neutral terms are preferred, with the third-person singular being perfectly acceptable (they, their, them). Alternately, you may use “one” or “you.”

If a subject has expressed a preference for pronounce outside these guidelines (e.g. “ey,” “hir”), please be respectful and use whatever they are comfortable with – but let your editor know. (We don’t want to change the pronouns used within your piece to suit house style, only to have the person profiled upset we’ve misgendered them.)

When writing about sex magick please use gender neutral terms, or be inclusive. Alternate pronouns, and if including heterosexual practices, also include homosexual practices – at the very least.

Image credit: Laineys Repertoire