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Syncopated Style Guide

To enable and facilitate collaboration within any organization, those within the organization should first define, agree upon and communicate the collaborative styles to be used. Because writing is a fundamental form of recorded communication (along with illustration), a basic style guide represents one of the first policies any organization should adopt. This policy may be adopted largely by reference, as is the case here.

This article represents a perpetual work-in-progress (moreso than others) intended primarily for Syncopated's internal use, but may be shared with interested outside parties.

General Rules

Most writing should follow Modern Language Association (M.L.A.) style rules, unless specifically overridden below.

Specific Rules

These rules supercede those from any general sources. When a rule below emphasizes or contradicts a common style guide, the similarity or contradiction to the particular style guide should be noted.


all types

  • refrain from and limit usage as much as possible
  • spell out the definition of each abbreviation the first time it is used in a work or each work's major section (i.e. chapter, Web page)
    • possible exceptions include common Latin:
      • cf.: "confer", "compare" in most usage, converse to e.g.)
      • etc.: "et cetera", "and the rest" (do not use "&c.")
      • et al. ("et alii", "and others") (do not confuse with "et alibi", "and elsewhere")
      • e.g.: "exempli gratia", "for [the sake of] example")
      • i.e.: "id est", "that is"
      • q.e.d.: "quod erat demonstrandum", "which was to be demonstrated"
      • vs.: "versus" (this abbreviation usually preferred to "Vs." or "v.", the latter to be preferred when describing legal challenges including court cases)
  • refer to and update the Electronic Entertainment Abbreviations Glossary

single-word contractions

  • use apostrophe to indicate omission of characters, e.g. "photo's"

multiple-word phrases

  • acronyms (pronounced as words, e.g. "LASER", "NATO", "RADAR")
    • do not separate letters with periods (as a cue to pronunciation)
      • like British press style
  • initialisms (not pronounced as words, e.g. "B.B.C.")
    • separate letters with periods (as a cue to pronunciation)
      • unlike British press style
    • do not follow middle periods with space
  • hybrids (acronym-initialisms)
    • at least one word abbreviated, at least one word not
    • e.g. e.e.prom for "electrically-erasable programable read-only memory"
  • partial abbreviations
    • at least one word abbreviated, at least one word not
    • e.g. e.mail for "electronic mail"
  • capitalize letters as they would be if the abbreviation had not been made
    • unlike British press style
    • e.g.
      • "North Atlantic Treaty Organisation" as "NATO"
      • "light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation" as "laser", not "labseor" or "LASER"
      • "radio detection and ranging" as "radar" not "RaDAR" or "RADAR"
      • "self-contained underwater breathing apparatus" as "scuba" not "SCUBA"
      • "sound navigation and ranging" as "sonar" not "SoNAR" or "SONAR"

omissions of words

  • (as from a quotation) should be indicated using an ellipsis ("...", see "ellipses")


  • (see "dates")


  • titles starting with a non-ordinal number
    • e.g. sort "101 Ways to Wok Your Dog" as "One Hundred Ways to..."
  • titles starting with an ordinal number
    • e.g. sort "21st Annual Springfield Yearbook" as "Annual Springfield Yearbook 21"


  • use to indicate omission of characters, e.g. "photo's" (see "abbreviations" group for "contractions")
  • use with "s" to indicate ownership
    • singular owner: preceding added "s", e.g. "the girl's dolls" indicating dolls owned by only one girl, or "pie in Mr. Gates's face"
    • plural owners: unless word ends with "s", add "s" and follow with apostrophe, e.g. "the girls' dolls" indicating dolls owned by more than one girl, or "the Gates' vast fortune" if describing more than one person named Gates (such as Bill and Melinda, for example)


  • indefinite: "a", "an"
  • definite: "the"


  • capitalize the first letter of the first word of each sentence
    • spell out numbers beginning sentences (see "numbers")
  • proper nouns
    • apply to specific:
      • people (e.g. "John Smith"),
      • organizations (e.g. "United Nations"),
      • places (e.g. "Millennium Dome"),
      • processes (not general techniques such as "laser", "radar", or "sonar"),
      • physical conditions (e.g. "AIDS", "H.I.V."),, etc.
    • like M.L.A. style
    • capitalize the first word of a title
    • in the middle of a title, do not capitalize:
      • articles (e.g. a, an, the),
      • prepositions (e.g. against, between, in, of to),
      • coordinating conjunctions (e.g. and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet),
      • the "to" in infinitives
  • titles
    • capitalize each word using same rules as under "proper nouns"



  • lists
    • list three or more items of similar type such as people (e.g. "Bob, Ted, Mary and Alice") or couples (e.g. "Bob and Mary, Ted and Alice, and Bill and Hillary"), but do not list dissimilar types, such as people and couples (e.g. "Bob, Ted and Alice, Bill and Hillary" ambiguities whether "Bill and Hillary" are people or is a couple)
    • separate the last two items by "and", "or" or "and/or", others by a comma
      • e.g. "this, that and the other"



Choice of specific words or phrases shall be defined as follow:


  • Internet, The
    • describes an imaginary thing (not an abstract concept, which would be permissible)
    • derived from "all inter-network [data] communication", generally refers to the largest public global network of smaller computer data networks
    • use of "the Internet" is discouraged; use "inter-network" (e.g. "Our inter-network [data] connection is down." or "Our [data] network is down.", not "The Internet is down.")
  • Internet protocol
    • describes an concrete thing, so its use is allowed (cf. "the Internet", above)
    • commonly specified with "terminal control protocol" and abbreviated "TCP/IP" (our rules specify that "T.C.P./I.P." is the preferred abbreviation)
  • Internet uniform resource locators (u.r.l.s)
    • replaced by universal resource identifiers (u.r.i.s)
    • see Internet universal resource identifiers
  • Internet universal resource identifiers (u.r.i.s)
    • replaces uniform resource locators (u.r.l.s)
    • see Internet universal resource identifiers
    • use M.L.A. format, include protocol prefix and full domain name (e.g. "< >")


  • omissions of words (as from a quotation) should be indicated using an ellipsis ("...")


  • use to bind multiple-word adjectives (e.g. "multiple-word" before "adjectives")
  • use to bind multiple-word spelled-out numbers before place names (e.g. "fifty-four thousand one hundred and eighty-two dollars")
  • use double hyphens in place of "en" dash when "en" dash is not available
    • e.g. "Then -- he sighed -- all was lost."
    • (use discouraged)


  • proper
    • capitalize (see "capitalization")
    • when writing hypertext (such as H.T.M.L.), encapsulate in "span" tag and apply appropriate "class" attribute


  • spell out integer numbers fewer than 10
  • spell out numbers beginning sentences
    • (use discouraged)

ordering (to put in order)

  • (see alphabetization)


  • one or two cannon, never "cannons" (wiki:Cannon)
  • one goose, two geese; one or two moose, not "mooses" nor "meese"; from wiki:Moose: "Tycho Brahe (1546-1601), physicist and astronomer, had a pet moose that is said to have become drunk and died in a fall down the stairs of his castle."
  • one mouse, two mice
  • recognize and pluralize Greek and Latin words using rules defined by those languages, e.g.:
    • one datum, two data
    • one ellipsis, two ellipses
    • one phenomenon, two phenomena

quotations, quotation marks



  • (see alphabetization)


  • unless quoting the work of others, words should be spelled as commonly accepted in the United States of America

Web Publication

For Web publication, refer to the following pages for character and color encoding: