1. No serial commas: apples, oranges and bananas — not apples, oranges, and bananas.
2. The dashes we use have double hyphens and spaces: The CEO — whom the board tried to fire — addressed the scandal. We don’t use em dashes or, heaven forbid, hyphens for dashes.
3. Commas and periods go inside the end quote marks. ALWAYS.
4. No double spaces after periods. To repeat: NO DOUBLE SPACES AFTER SENTENCES.
5. Appropriate sourcing of quotes: This means that quotes should be attributed to a source, e.g.:
a. “Blah, blah, blah,” Warren Buffett told me in an interview -OR-
b. “Blah, blah, blah,” Warren Buffett said in an interview with the New York Times.
6. Single quotes belong only around quotes within quotes and in headlines and subheads. NOWHERE ELSE.
7. Put in your own hyperlinks. Don’t put URLs in parentheses and expect us to link them.
8. Use one-sentence paragraphs sparingly. Too many makes your piece clunky. Two to three sentences is an ideal paragraph length.
9. Percent is used as a word. Never use %, except in charts.
10. Subheads (copy that breaks up long chunks of text) should have the same, parallel format.
11. If the first head is a full sentence, they all should be. If one has a verb, they all should have a verb.
12. Don’t use links in subheads. Use them only in your text.
13. Don’t capitalize the words in subheads, after the first word.
14. Don’t forget that women hold up half the sky. If you must use “he,” also use “she.” Get around this awkward construction, at least sometimes, by pluralizing your pronouns. Instead of “An employee has his job to do,” make it “Employees have their jobs to do.”
15. A company or organization or government agency is an “it,” never a “they.” For the possessive pronoun, when you refer to possession by a single person or company, use “its,” not “their.” Similarly, when you write about a company’s web audience, mention “the audience’s members” before saying “them.” An audience is not a “them.”
16. Be consistent: If you start with the pronoun “you,” stick with it. Avoid mixing “we,” “I,” “he/she” and “you” all in the same article.
17. Be consistent, Part II: Stick with the same verb tense throughout. Remember that the present perfect tense (“That company has followed the same policy for years”) expresses ongoing, habitual action.
18. Check for repetition of the same words, points and themes. That’s just poor writing.
19. Numbers under 10 are written out (unless appearing with the word “percent.”) Numbers 10 or higher are written as numerals (unless they start a sentence). Years are always expressed with numerals. Use “more than” rather than “over” with numbers.
20. Check quotes with reliable sources. Brainyquote and unedited blogs are not reliable.
21. If you must use jargon, particularly abbreviations and acronyms nobody else knows, spell these out on the first reference (followed by the abbreviation in parentheses). Avoid “SMB” altogether. We don’t like that one. In fact, we hate it.
22. Names: For the first reference, use the full name: Mark Zuckerberg. For subsequent references, use the last name only. Even if Mark Zuckerberg is your best friend, even if he was the best man at your wedding, don’t call him “Mark” in copy.