BCcampus writing guidelines

Editorial articles and web content

Updated May 2017

At BCcampus, our mandate is to provide teaching, learning, educational technology, and open education support to post-secondary institutions throughout British Columbia. We create relevant, interesting, and engaging content for our readers, written by multiple authors with various levels of expertise.

Tone and voice

The preferred tone for informal communications – digital media, web content, articles, newsletters, and similar channels – is professional and compelling. We do not strive to be the authority on all things educational; rather, we strive to be a conduit to connect our audiences with information, expertise, and advanced approaches they can use to create a more effective educational environment.

At BCcampus, we are:

  • Collaborative; we use ‘we, us, and our’ to include the people and teams we work with.
  • Facilitators; we actively work with others.
  • Contributors; we quote our sources and share the accomplishments of the professional educators we work with to ensure they receive credit and recognition for their contribution.
  • Passionate; we share information about the people, resources, and methodologies that excite us, and this excitement is felt by our audience.

Intentional action

The content we create and share is done with purpose – quality content delivered to an engaged audience. The articles you write should inform, invite, announce, and celebrate the accomplishments of BCcampus and our partners. Your excitement about the topic should come through in the writing, and will engage the reader to share your enthusiasm.

Style at a glance

  • Don’t bury the lede. The audience should know what the topic is from the initial sentence and headline.
  • The first sentence should draw in the reader and compel them to continue reading.
  • Answer “So what?” in the first sentence and throughout the document.
  • Each sentence should have a purpose. If it doesn’t add value to the article, cut it.
  • Use clear, relevant language.
  • Avoid clickbait. Lists are fine, as long as they don’t come across as forced. Avoid “You’ll never guess…,” “Guess what…,” “This will blow your mind…,” etc.

The golden rule: plain language, plain language, plain language. If people don’t understand the first few lines, they won’t read any further.

Rule of thumb Dos Don’ts
Relevant, right away (lede lines) Ditch the lecture, flip the classroom, and forget about MOOCs, said [famous keynote speaker at the [Conference of Awesome] BCcampus hosted last week. BCcampus hosted a conference last week at SFU Harbour Centre in downtown Vancouver. It was well-attended by 500 people from all over Canada and the U.S.
Active voice Some of our system partners might think “shared services” means centralization and outsourcing. The shared service approach is often confused with the older methods of centralization and outsourcing.
Conversational and clear  We don’t work that way. Instead, we respect the expertise of each of our system partners. A one-size-fits all approach doesn’t work for our clients nor for us. Where centralization may be perceived as a one-size-fits-all approach that doesn’t fit any one department in the organization well, and outsourcing may be perceived as a loss of self-sufficiency and expertise of the whole organization, shared services may not have similar detriments if a self-determining, consortial approach to service solutions is utilized.
Plain(er), jargon-free language At BCcampus, we run shared services in collaboration with our clients who use them. The BCcampus shared and collaborative service model is most closely aligned with the multi-campus system model.
Human

 

 

“Our instructors can create new simulations based on the subject,” said Bob Walker from JIBC. “If they’re training firefighters this week, they can put up a new forest fire scenario quickly. Next week it could be EMTs. Because it’s all web-based, Praxis lets our instructors be more flexible.” As a web-based program, Praxis provides users with the flexibility to deliver immersive, interactive and scenario-based training exercises anytime, anywhere. Simulations can be customized by instructors and subject matter experts to ensure that participants are faced with situations that are realistic and relevant to their learning goals.

BCcampus exceptions to CP style for web and print publications

BCcampus follows the Canadian Press Stylebook, and the Canadian Oxford Dictionary.

General guidelines

This list is intended as a quick reference for anyone writing for BCcampus publications. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation are important because they reinforce credibility and ensure a clear message. There may be times when it’s appropriate to deviate from this style guide. Additional guidelines can be found here.

Here’s a rule of thumb to consider before reviewing a written piece: would paying closer attention to spelling, punctuation, and grammar add to the message we are trying to convey? If yes, then edit more closely. If not, there is no value in using a fine-toothed comb and holding up timely publication.

Generally, the more long-lasting or important the publication (i.e. research paper, strategic plan, splash page on a website), the more closely it needs to be edited. The more informal or shorter-duration (i.e. blog post, social media conversation) pieces have more latitude.

A few BCcampus basics

  1. Our name is BCcampus, not BC Campus, BC campus, B.C. Campus, or B.C. campus.
  2. Our province is abbreviated B.C., not BC, except where it occurs as part of a proper noun or brand (BCCAT, BCELN).
  3. One space between sentences
  4. When speaking about funding for our core operations, with specific priorities and deliverables, refer to the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills & Training, not the Ministry of Advanced Education
  5. Avoid using italics, especially for web writing
  6. Do not use quotations for emphasis. This is weak writing and must be avoided
  7. Phone numbers. At BCcampus we use a hyphen (e.g. 123-456-7890)
  8. Avoid the word “initiative.” It means personal drive or a formal Elections BC process akin to a referendum or recall. Refer instead to projects, plans, actions, or measures.
  9. When referring to BCcampus’ services, don’t list as BCcampus OpenEd or BCcampus Learning & Teaching, but rather list as BCcampus.

Abbreviations

  • Geographical locations take periods. Therefore, B.C. stands for British Columbia; BC stands for Before Christ. Some organizations think because their logo doesn’t use periods, their name shouldn’t have them either. Not true. A logo is a visual thing, a graphic device, and just because the artist didn’t want dots messing up the design doesn’t change the fact that B.C. takes periods.
  • However, CP also says that in a proper name (a company, for instance), if they insist on odd spellings etc., it’s the company’s name, so go with their version. For example, BCcampus, BC Ferries, BC Hydro.
  • Months: In dates, abbreviate when followed by day, except March, April, May, June and July. Thus, we write Jan. 13, 2003, April 2, 2003. But January 2003 (no comma).
  • Days of week: don’t abbreviate, except in a table if you need to save space.

Attributions

When adding an image, the rule-of-thumb is you should use an attribution for photos or drawings. Whereas, a resource that contains words (table, graph, chart) should be cited and only if the words from this resource are used and placed within a newly created structure, i.e. you make a new table, graph or chart.

For a broader discussion on this topic, see Quill West’s presentation (for Pierce College, CC-BY 4.0): Citations vs. Attributions. And how to deal with them in your work.

The attribution for each image should be placed at the end of the article.

Capitalization

Sentence case should be used for all titles and headings – (e.g., such as Textbooks and resources, not Textbooks and Resources)

“Capitalize all proper names, the names of departments and agencies of national and provincial governments, trade names, names of associations, companies, clubs, religions, languages, races, places, addresses. Otherwise, lowercase is favoured where a reasonable option exists.” (page 4 CP Caps and Spelling)

Capitalize Lowercase
Universities and colleges (University of Victoria) Departments (faculty of education)

Degrees – bachelor of science (unless abbreviated B.Sc, BA)

Schools – Willows Elementary school, Oak Bay Secondary school

Departments (faculty of education)

Degrees – bachelor of science (unless abbreviated B.Sc, BA)

Mayor and Coun. (for councillor) are uppercase before names only Lowercase job titles for everybody

Lowercase titles preceded by “former” or “acting”

Full names of acts (Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act), at all times Use lowercase when writing “the act will…” DO NOT italicize the names of acts
Uppercase Aboriginal at all times
West Coast, the West, the Interior, the Island, Lower Mainland, the North, the Northeast (regions) west coast of Vancouver Island, the B.C. coast
Internet, because it’s a proper name, generic e-anything should be written with a lowercase e and a hyphen before the word: e-government, e-business. An exception in CP Style is email, which is no longer hyphenated.

intranet, because it’s generic

Use all caps for abbreviations and acronyms like HTML, and URL website, webmaster, web page, webcast, etc.

Citations

When citing a reference, be sure to pick a specific citation style. Refer to the appropriate manual (e.g., MLA Handbook, APA, Chicago Manual of Style).

Commas

  • Serial comma (AKA Oxford comma) is a comma placed immediately before the coordinating conjunctive (and, or, nor)
-       men, women, children, and pets
  • In a sentence made of two distinct clauses, put a comma before the and so each clause can stand alone.
-       Wallet presented his budget and walked out of the house.
-       Wallet presented his budget, and he walked out of the house.

Hyphens

  • Post-secondary.
  • The $50-million project vs. cost of the project is $50 million. Simple test – do you hear an “s” on dollar when said out loud? If not, then hyphenate. The 25-seat arena. The arena has 25 seats. She is 12 years old. The 12-year-old.
  • Bylaw, byelection (no hyphen).
  • Child care (standing alone) but child-care centre, child-care grant (compound modifiers).
  • Fundraise, fundraiser, fundraising – no hyphen.
  • Nationwide, provincewide (no hyphens), but use Canada-wide.

Measurement

  • Metric measurements are used, i.e., km not miles; mm, cm and metres, not inches, feet or yards; kg not lbs; Celsius (C) not Fahrenheit (F).
  • Exception: historical contexts. The speed limit on the Lions Gate Bridge when it opened in 1938 was 15 miles per hour.

Numbers

-    Grade 7, grades 7 and 8, seventh grade.
  • Numbers one through nine are spelled out (except when saying No. 1 or number 1 priority). Use numerals for 10 and higher (except when starting a sentence with a number) and for decimals (4.5 per cent – and note: per cent is two words). Also Phase 1, Section 1, Grade 1, page 1, line 9.

Quotes

  • If a quote continues from one paragraph to the next, do not put closing quotation marks at the end of the previous paragraph, but do put open quotation marks at the beginning of the new paragraph, as follows:
“Our strategy is simple.
“We speak in bureaucratese like ‘initiatives’and‘strategy,’ and no one can understand a word we say.”
  • Please don’t start a quote with “I am pleased…”. It’s generic and banal. (“I am pleased by this pleasing strategic initiative that pleases me.”)
  • Also, do not use quotations to emphasize a word or phrase.

Spelling

  • Adviser, not advisor.
  • Alternative (one or the other); alternate (one after the other).
  • a.m., p.m. (periods and lower case). Noon, not 12 noon, which is redundant. 1 p.m., not 1:00 p.m.
  • Assist (use help)
  • B.C. Open Textbook Project not BC Open Textbook Project
  • BCcampus Helpdesk, not Help Desk or help desk
  • Clean up (verb), cleanup (noun).
  • Defence (not defense, no matter what your spell-checker says) but defensive.
  • Educational Technology Users Group (ETUG)
  • EdTech Online Community
  • For generic use, open education should be lowercase, not Open Education or OpenEd.
  • Fulfil (not fulfill), fulfilled, fulfilling, fulfilment.
  • Generic use, open textbooks, not Open Textbooks
  • Historic (important or outstanding in history), historical (about history). A, not an, historical site.
  • It’s (it is), its (possessive).
  • Judgment, not judgement.
  • Lend, lent (verb), loan (noun).
  • Licence (noun), license (verb). (Easy test: substitute the words “advice” or “advise” to determine which part of speech it is.) – Also, licensed, licensing, licensee.
  • Lock out (verb), lockout (noun), lock up (verb), lockup (noun).
  • Metre (metric), meter (gauge).
  • New Westminster (not New Westminister).
  • Online Program Development Fund (OPDF) (“the fund” after first reference)
  • Northeast, northwest (one word). Northwestern B.C., not northwest B.C.
  • Offence, offensive.
  • Online and distance education/learning (note online is one word)
  • Open educational resources (OER)
  • Practice (noun or adjective), practise (verb).
  • Set up (verb), setup (noun).
  • Spin off (verb), spinoff (noun and adjective).
  • Textbooks not texts
  • Test bank, not testbank
  • Underway (one word).
  • Upcoming (use coming).
  • Website, not web site.

In general, Canadian spellings are used. Consult the Canadian Spellings list for first-choice spelling preferences.

That and which

  • As a conjunction, that should be omitted if no confusion results. Linden said (that) he would go. When choosing between that and which, that is used to introduce an essential clause, and there’s no comma before it. Which introduces a non-essential clause, and it does take a comma.
-       He cited the case that changed Canadian law.
-       He cited the Kilroy case, which changed Canadian law.

Miscellaneous

  • Styles for individual web properties and publications may vary. A style manual should be produced for each website documenting heads, sub-heads, bulleted list, caption and body text formats. The one for BCcampus.ca can be found here.
  • Uppercase street, road etc. with names unless two or more are referred to (Howe Street, but Howe and Seymour streets) and abbreviate in addresses when the number is used – 645 Fort St.
  • URLs: do not post raw URLs (e.g. http://www.bccampus.ca). Embedded links are preferred for all online distribution, using appropriate anchor text. For printed content or hardcopy materials, make the link usable if typed as plain text into the address line of a browser (e.g. bccampus.ca).Use inquiry, not enquiry, except when referring to Enquiry BC.
  • Use the term workshop when it’s guided, intensive, hands-on, interactive, cohort, small groups, active learning,  focused, practical
  • Use the term course when it’s taught, content-based, assignments, semester-length, self-directed, self-paced, passive learning, graded, multiple topics, large groups
  • When referring to universities, colleges, etc., please use post-secondary education rather than higher education or HigherEd. HigherEd is more of a U.K. and U.S. reference to post-secondary education. B.C. tends to stick to post-secondary education.

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