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Dec 10 / B/R Quality Control Team

Bleacher Report Style and Formatting

Part 15 of Playbook: The Basics of Writing for Bleacher ReportClick here for more information and to download all of Playbook for free.

Style, in the sense we mean it here, is unfortunately a little less glamorous than it sounds. It refers to the rules a publication expects its writers to conform to. For example, it might be one site’s style to use the percent symbol (%), but it’s the style of most to spell out the word “percent.”

You should know the style requirements of any publication you write for, including Bleacher Report. Similarly, formatting errors undermine a writer’s credibility by casting doubt upon his or her diligence during the content creation process. Uniform copy style and formatting signals to readers that what they’re looking at has been produced in a professional manner.

While B/R writers are expected to be familiar with all of the rules laid out in the Bleacher Report Stylebook, our style and formatting bible, evaluators look for the following style errors as representative of a general failure to conform to the requirements:

  • Failure to use first and last personal names on first reference
  • A number under 10 improperly presented as a digit
  • A number equal to or higher than 10 improperly spelled out
  • A dash other than an em-dash (Note: This rule does not affect hyphens, which are different from em-dashes)
  • An improper use of the percent symbol (%) instead of the spelled-out word “percent”
  • An improper use of single quotation marks (‘…’) instead of double quotation marks (“…”) in the body text of an article (Note: Single quotation marks are acceptable in headlines)

The major formatting errors we look for are indented paragraphs, extra or missing line breaks, non-standard font and irregularly justified text. These are all mistakes that are obvious at a quick glance, and should be fixed before you publish. Problems with non-standard font are almost always caused by writers pasting their copy from Microsoft Word.

Evaluators also look for these more minor, but still important, formatting errors:

  • Non-standard subheadline style
  • Non-bulleted lists (lists that aren’t formatted with B/R’s “bulleted list” feature)
  • Non-blocked quotations (quotations of three or more lines that aren’t formatted with B/R’s “block quote” feature)
  • Blocked quotations enclosed by quotation marks
  • Improperly embedded tweets (not embedded using the B/R publishing tool)
  • Hyperlinks encompassing more than five words (excluding the names of writers and publications).

We admit it: This seems like pretty picayune stuff at first blush, and we sometimes get pushback from writers when we point out style and formatting issues. “What’s important is my knowledge and analysis,” the argument tends to go, “not these minor issues that a competent copy editor can easily fix.” Unfortunately, that logic is faulty on both fronts.

First, remember that readers judge your writing (subconsciously or otherwise) in large part by the way it looks on the page. If it looks “wrong”—if you’ve got a funny font, or if you’re using digits when everyone is spelling out numbers—you’re going to be starting in a credibility hole no matter how good your analysis might be. And while copy editors can and do fix style issues, it’s not the best use of their time and energy, which are better spent performing more important services like polishing prose or checking facts.

Bottom line? Like textual errors, sloppy formatting and inconsistent style hurt your standing in the eyes of your audience and your colleagues. If you want to build relationships with both camps, you should take the time to learn the rules and, yeah, sweat the small stuff.

If you ever have questions about the application of any particular B/R style rule, you shouldn’t hesitate to use the Stylebook Question Form to seek clarification.

Next post: Multimedia Assets
Previous post: Headlines

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Playbook: The Basics of Writing for Bleacher Report Writers is an 18-part series outlining the metrics and criteria of B/R’s objective Writer Evaluation system. The system complements the subjective assessments made by members of our Editorial Team, which means that a solid evaluation is a necessary but not sufficient condition of success with B/R. You can find more information and download the full Playbook for free at this link

Playbook Table of Contents:

Three story types
News Report Story Angle
News Report Narrative Structure, Information Aggregation
Argumentative Articles: Thesis, Rhetorical Structure, Factual Evidence
Ranked Lists: Ranking Logic
Ranked Lists: Topic, List Composition
Attribution and Hyperlinks
Textual Correctness
Sentence and Paragraph Structure
Authorial Voice
B/R Style and Formatting
Multimedia Assets
Common Mistakes: General
Common Mistakes: Three Article Types