1: Scope and History

1.1: Overview

The Tangent Style Guide (Tangent) is the prescriptive style and usage guide for Scott Bradford: Off on a Tangent. The eighth edition applies to original content published after July 1, 2020. It may be adapted for use by other websites and publications.

1.2: Exceptions

Content originally written for academic purposes, or for publication elsewhere, may have been written in other styles per the requirements of the class, institution, or publication. In these cases, and in the case of content written in earlier versions of the Tangent style, content may not fully conform with the current styles.

Even when these exceptions do not apply, no style guide should be followed blindly. Writers and editors must use good judgement. Knowing the rules is important, but so is knowing when to break them.

1.3: History of editions

All editions of the Tangent style guide have incorporated or were based upon a published style guide in general use. Following is a brief history of editions:

  • First Edition (approx. 1995 to approx. 2000): MLA Handbook (Fourth Edition) with notes
  • Second Edition (approx. 2000 to approx. 2003): MLA Handbook (Fifth Edition) with notes
  • Third Edition (approx. 2003 to approx. 2009): MLA Handbook (Sixth Edition) with notes
  • Fourth Edition (approx. 2009 to May 31, 2012): MLA Handbook (Seventh Edition) with notes
  • Fifth Edition (June 1, 2012, to December 31, 2016): Chicago Manual of Style (Sixteenth Edition) with notes
  • Sixth Edition (January 1, 2017, to August 31, 2017): Chicago Manual of Style (Sixteenth Edition) with notes and modifications
  • Seventh Edition (September 1, 2017, to June 30, 2020): Chicago Manual of Style (Seventeenth Edition) with notes and modifications
  • Eighth Edition (July 1, 2020, to present): Tangent Style Guide

1.4: Revisions of this edition

  • 8.0 – Eighth edition, effective July 1, 2020.
    • Entire style guide rewritten and reorganized.
  • 8.1 – Eighth edition, first revision, effective July 22, 2020.
    • Added “4.2: Plurals for borrowed nouns” and renumbered subsequent sections.
    • Expanded and updated “4.3: Capitalize the word Internet.”
    • Expanded and updated “6.4: U.S. political parties.”
    • Expanded and updated “7: Matters of Religion.”
    • Re-licensed under the CC BY 4.0 license as described in “11.4: Copyright of this guide.”
    • Minor corrections and clarifications throughout.
  • 8.2 – Eighth edition, second revision, effective September 9, 2020.
    • Added “4.5: Names of countries.”
    • Expanded and updated “5: Credibility and Independence.”
    • Expanded and updated “8: Science, Measurement, and Time.”
    • Added “9: Technology and Accessibility” and renumbered subsequent sections.
    • Minor corrections and clarifications throughout.

2: Style

2.1: Style guides

The following primary style guide should be considered prescriptive except where it conflicts with Tangent:

Throughout this document, the primary style guide is referred to as Chicago. The following secondary style guides may also be consulted in the listed order of preference, but their guidance should not be considered prescriptive:

  • MLA Handbook (Eighth Edition) published by the Modern Language Association
  • A.P. Stylebook (Online Edition) published by the Associated Press

Other general purpose, topic-specific, and special-use style guides may be consulted, though their guidance also should not be considered prescriptive except as described elsewhere in Tangent.

2.2: Questions and internal discourse

(Modifies Chicago 6.42 and 13.43.)

A direct question is sometimes included within a sentence. Such a question is usually introduced by a comma (unless it comes at the beginning of a sentence), begins with a capital letter, and is enclosed in quotes. If it is necessary to distinguish a direct question from direct quotations, use single quotation marks instead of double quotation marks.

  • I asked myself, “Where did I put my phone?”
  • Writers often wonder, ‘Why is English such a difficult language?’

Thought, imagined dialogue, and other internal discourse (also called interior discourse) should also be enclosed in quotation marks. Here, too, single quotation marks may be used instead of double quotation marks if it is necessary to distinguish internal discourse from direct quotations.

  • I thought, “This has to be the right switch.”
  • ‘Why,’ he wondered, ‘would anybody park here?’

2.3: Vertical lists

(Modifies Chicago 6.130.)

Items in an unordered list should always be marked by a bullet or other marker.

Capitalize items in both ordered and unordered lists except when a list is punctuated as a sentence as described in Chicago 6.131. Closing punctuation is used only if items consist of complete sentences.

2.4: Periods with abbreviations

(Modifies Chicago 10.4.)

Use periods with abbreviations that include one or two capital letters (e.g., “U.S.”), except when appearing in parentheses as a reference to a U.S. state’s postal abbreviation, a time zone, or a political party. Use no periods with abbreviations that include three or more capital letters, even if the abbreviation also includes lowercase letters.

3: Usage

3.1: Usage guides

For general matters of usage, refer to Chicago’s chapter 5 and the following primary usage guide:

Throughout this document, the primary usage guide is referred to as Garner. Guidance in Garner should be given serious consideration but is not necessarily prescriptive. For further guidance, the following secondary usage guides may be consulted in the listed order of preference, but their guidance should not be considered prescriptive:

Other general purpose, topic-specific, and special-use usage guides may be consulted, though their guidance also should not be considered prescriptive except as described elsewhere in Tangent.

3.2: Personal pronouns

(Modifies Chicago 5.43, 5.48, and 5.256.)

Male personal pronouns (he, him) are normally used to refer to individual male members of dioecious (two-sex) species, including humans. Female personal pronouns (she, her) are normally used to refer to individual female members. Generally, the appropriate male or female personal pronouns should be used when referring to an individual whose sex is known. This best accords with the principle of truth and accuracy (see Tangent 5.1).

Nonstandard personal pronouns preferred by an individual person may be used if necessary but must be clearly explained to the reader. If possible, avoid nonstandard usage by using the techniques for achieving gender neutrality described in Chicago 5.255. It is now acceptable to use they and their as gender-neutral singular pronouns, so these may also be used to avoid nonstandard pronoun usage.

Also see Tangent 3.4 for guidance regarding name changes and former names.

3.3: Generic masculine pronouns

(Clarifies Chicago 5.252.)

It is acceptable to use generic masculine pronouns when necessary for clarity, flow, or effect, but this should be avoided if possible. Consider using the techniques for achieving gender neutrality described in Chicago 5.255 or using they or their as gender-neutral singular pronouns as described in Chicago 5.256 and Tangent 3.2.

3.4: Name changes and former names

(Clarifies Chicago 8.3.)

As stated in Chicago, “The name of a living person should, wherever possible, correspond to that person’s preferred usage.” The preferred name should be used even if it differs from the legal name that appears in official records.

For private figures, legal names and unused former names should be referenced only if necessary and relevant.

For public figures, well-known former names should be referenced along with the preferred name to clearly inform the reader that they refer to the same person. When writing about awards, publications, film or television credits, and the like, it should be made clear under which name they originally appeared.

Also see Tangent 3.2 for guidance regarding individuals’ personal pronoun preferences.

4: Words and Spelling

4.1: Dictionaries

(Replaces Chicago 7.1.)

For general matters of U.S. English spelling, refer to the following primary dictionary:

  • Merriam-Webster.com (based on Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary) published by Merriam-Webster Inc.

Throughout this document, the primary dictionary is referred to as Merriam-Webster.

If more than one spelling is given, or more than one form of the plural, the first form is usually preferred. A notable exception to this rule is described in Tangent 4.2. Spelling and definitions in the primary dictionary should normally be considered prescriptive but should be used in accordance with recommended usage (see Tangent 3).

For further definitions or alternative spellings, the following secondary dictionaries may be consulted in the listed order of preference, but their guidance should not be considered prescriptive:

For unusual words, rare usages, and etymological history, the following unabridged dictionaries may be consulted in the listed order of preference, but their guidance should not be considered prescriptive:

Other general purpose, topic-specific, and special-use dictionaries may be consulted, though their guidance also should not be considered prescriptive except as described elsewhere in Tangent.

4.2: Plurals for borrowed nouns

(Modifies and clarifies Chicago 7.5-7.7.)

Nouns borrowed from other languages sometimes take their plural from the original language; for example, the plural of stimulus is stimuli. Others take only the English-style plural ending in “s,” like virus to viruses. Still others can accept both forms, like referendum to either referenda or referendums.

Other nouns were anglicized from the Romance languages but retain a postpositive adjective—attorney general, notary public, and the like. These kinds of compound nouns were traditionally made plural by making the main noun plural, so the plural of attorney general would be attorneys general and the plural of notary public would be notaries public. This form pleases linguistic pedants, but often sounds incorrect or stilted to casual readers.

English-style plurals for these nouns are gaining acceptance. For example, both attorney generals and notary publics are listed in Merriam-Webster as variant plural forms.

Consult Merriam-Webster for guidance on these and other tricky words. When multiple forms are listed, the English-style plurals with an “s” at the end are preferred, even if listed only as variants and even if discouraged by Garner, unless their use would be generally regarded as an error. But if no English-style plural is listed in the dictionary, do not invent one.

4.3: Capitalize the word Internet

(Corrects Chicago 7.80.)

The word Internet refers to a single specific wide area network (WAN). It is a proper noun and should be capitalized (see Chicago 5.6). The word is only rarely used in a generic sense to refer to a type of WAN, which should instead be called an internetwork. The Internet is an internetwork.

Authoritative style guides, usage guides, and dictionaries are split on this subject. Among Tangent’s primary sources, Chicago endorses the lowercased form while both Garner and Merriam-Webster endorse the capitalized form (Merriam-Webster lists the lowercased form as a variant). Among the secondary style guides, the MLA Handbook is silent though its editors capitalize the word in its text, and the A.P. Stylebook agrees with Chicago that the word should be lowercased. The secondary usage guides are either silent or agree with Garner that the word should be capitalized. Most of the secondary dictionaries include both forms but list the lowercased form as primary and the capitalized form as a variant.

Common usage is shifting strongly in favor of the lowercased form, but this should be resisted. The word Internet does not refer to a general type of computer network, nor is it a generic term like “highway system” or “flood plain.” It is, in fact, the proper name of a single worldwide computer network. Tangent agrees with Garner: “The word is legitimately viewed as a proper noun.”

4.4: Color as shorthand for race or ethnicity

(Corrects Chicago 8.38.)

The names of colors are sometimes used as shorthand for racial or ethnic groups. “Black” and “white” are often used as shorthand for African (or African American) and European (or European American) respectively. “Brown” is increasingly used as shorthand for Latino, or as a catch-all term incorporating some or all African, Asian, Latino, and Middle Eastern races and ethnicities.

Historically, “yellow” and “red” have also been used as shorthand for Asian (or Asian American) and American Indian (or Native American), but these terms are now considered archaic or offensive.

Reducing race or ethnicity to skin color is overly simplistic and should be avoided. It is acceptable to use color as shorthand only when it is widely accepted by members of the racial or ethnic group in question. Because colors are not proper names for any racial or ethnic group, they are not capitalized.

4.5: Names of countries

It is usually best to use the shortest English name endorsed by a country’s sovereign government. The primary and secondary dictionaries may also be consulted to determine proper spelling and form, as may the following additional resources:

It is acceptable to omit descriptive terms like “Democratic Republic of . . . ” and “Kingdom of . . . ” when they do not form an integral part of a country’s name. Using these appellations uncritically may run afoul of the principle of truth and accuracy (see Tangent 5.1); if used, it should be made clear by the context that they are not unbiased descriptors. If a country’s name is verbose, not well known, or easily confused with the name of another country, it may be preferable to use an unofficial name, but only if it is inoffensive and universally understood.

For example, the two countries claiming lineage from pre-1949 China are normally best called China and Taiwan. Their formal names—People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Republic of China (ROC)—are easily confused. The simpler informal names allow for clear differentiation and more accurately describe where each country is located. The formal names and initialisms may, however, be preferred when emphasizing their shared history and how the two modern states emerged from the Chinese Civil War.

Likewise, the two countries on the Korean Peninsula are best called North Korea and South Korea. Their formal names—Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Republic of Korea—are also easily confused. Worse, the one with “democratic” in its name is the one that has a nondemocratic system of government, so using its official name would require additional explanatory text.

In most contexts, United Kingdom (U.K.) is sufficient to describe the country officially known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Similarly, United States (U.S.) is normally preferred over United States of America (USA).

5: Credibility and Independence

5.1: Truth and accuracy

Credible nonfiction writing requires a commitment to truth and accuracy. Never sacrifice this commitment in the name of “political correctness” or in an attempt to achieve “bias-free language” (see Tangent 5.3). Make every reasonable effort to avoid unnecessary offense, but do not be afraid to write frankly and honestly. It is always better to write an offensive truth than an inoffensive lie.

5.2: Independence

Credible nonfiction writing also requires independence. Do not accept payment, goods, or services from any company, association, charity, political party, political action committee, or other group in return for favorable treatment. Promotional products may be accepted for review, but only if there are no conditions that would limit the content of the review, and only if the promotional consideration is disclosed to the reader.

Works written for-hire may be republished if permitted by the owner of the work, but the conditions under which they were written should be clearly disclosed, especially if those conditions are likely to have changed the character of the work from what the writer would have written independently.

Advertising can be accepted, but it should be clear what content comes from an ad and what content is formally published on the website. Advertisers should not be given any editorial control over content outside of the ads, nor should advertising considerations be permitted to influence content or publication choices. Website publishers may choose to exclude advertising categories that are likely to conflict with the content of the site or are likely to offend or distract readers.

5.3: Bias

An important distinction must be made between two possible meanings of the word bias.

In its most pejorative sense, bias means unreasoned prejudgment, especially against individuals or groups based on race, sex, or other immutable characteristics. It is a synonym for prejudice, which is the better word to use when this sense is meant. Prejudice should be avoided in life and in writing. When Chicago and other guides encourage “bias-free language,” they are actually advocating language free of prejudice.

In its more common sense, bias means an inclination or tendency toward one’s own opinions, especially relating to worldview, morals, religion, and politics. This kind of bias cannot be eliminated. It should be minimized in news and scholarly works, but it is an essential part of opinion writing. An unbiased news article is one where the opinion of the writer is impossible to discern; this ideal is difficult to achieve. A biased news article is one where the opinion of the writer is evident, which harms credibility. But in an opinion article, the opinion of the writer should be evident.

Take care to describe others’ opinions fairly and to present factual information truthfully and accurately (see Tangent 5.1), even in opinion writing.

5.4: Conflicts of interest

Potential or real conflicts of interest should always be disclosed. When there is question about whether a potential conflict of interest exists, assume it does and disclose it. Examples of conflicts of interest include matters that either have an impact on, or are directly impacted by,

  • the writer’s employment or investments;
  • the writer’s immediate or extended family’s known employment or investments; or
  • the writer’s membership in religious or secular associations.

The greater the degree of separation, the lesser the need to disclose a potential conflict of interest. For example, if a proposed law would be likely to put the writer’s employer out of business if passed, then the writer must disclose this as a potential conflict of interest when writing about that proposed law. But if a proposed law has some potential to lead to a stock market downturn that might, in turn, have a negative impact on the writer’s retirement accounts, the potential effect on the writer is far enough removed from the subject that no disclosure is necessary.

Subjects that fall somewhere in-between are more difficult to evaluate. Consider whether a neutral reader would be less likely to view the writer as credible if the potential conflict were known. If so, disclose it. It is better to disclose a potential conflict that does not really matter than to have an intrepid reader (or critic) discover that potential conflict on their own and use it to discredit the author’s work.

5.5: Corrections

Grammar, style, and spelling corrections, and minor edits to improve clarity, do not need to be noted unless they cause a substantial change of meaning. But changes to news pieces, factual corrections to opinion pieces, and grammar, style, and spelling corrections that cause a substantial change of meaning, must be clearly documented in an editor’s note.

If an error was reported by a reader, that reader should be identified and credited in the editor’s note unless they have requested anonymity. If the reader has requested anonymity, the correction should be credited to “an anonymous reader” or similar.

A post that is being updated on a live or ongoing basis should be clearly marked as such. Any post marked in this way may be updated and corrected as new information becomes available without noting each individual change. At the conclusion of the live or ongoing updates, the post should be marked as final. Any subsequent edits should be noted as described above.

6: Government, Politics, and Elections

6.1: U.S. and foreign civil titles

The civil title styles described in Chicago 8.22 are extended in Tangent. They should be used at the first reference to any elected or appointed U.S. political official who is currently serving in office, whether at the federal, state, or local level. Parenthetically state the official’s political party and, if applicable, the political jurisdiction they represent.

Abbreviate U.S. political parties as described in Tangent 6.4. Spell-out the names of uncommon political parties not listed there. Identify candidates and officials with no formal party affiliation as independent (I).

Include the official’s represented jurisdiction—state, city, county, district, precinct, ward, or similar—separated from the political party with a single hyphen or dash. Abbreviate U.S. states and territories using their two-letter postal abbreviations (see Chicago 10.27). Label numbered legislative districts with the state abbreviation and the district’s ordinal numeral. Spell-out the names of other jurisdictions.

Examples of this style:

  • President Donald Trump (R)
  • Senator Mark Warner (D-VA)
  • Representative Jennifer Wexton (D-VA 10th)
  • Loudoun County Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles)

Apply the same style described above to foreign political officials but spell out the names of all foreign political parties, even if they share a name with a U.S. political party. Also spell out the names of all political subdivisions.

Examples of this style:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin (United Russia)
  • U.K. House of Commons Minister Stephen Kinnock (Labour-Aberavon)

If the official previously held other offices, this may be noted in the text, but the parenthetical reference should always refer to the office currently held.

Officials no longer serving in office should be identified at first reference using the civil title styles described above prefaced with the word “former.” When an individual has held multiple offices, the highest of them should generally be used, even if it is not the office most recently held. Other previously held offices may be noted in the text.

Examples of this style:

  • Former President Barack Obama (D)
  • Former Representative Barbara Comstock (R-VA 10th)

In the U.S., offices may be ranked in the following order of precedence:

  1. President of the United States
  2. Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
  3. Vice President of the United States
  4. Presidential cabinet secretary
  5. Member of the U.S. Senate
  6. Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
  7. Governor of a U.S. state
  8. Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
  9. Other state-level elective office (e.g., Lieutenant Governor)
  10. Justice of a U.S. state supreme court or equivalent
  11. U.S. federal court judge
  12. Member of a U.S. state legislature
  13. Mayor of a city or equivalent
  14. State or local judge
  15. Member of a city council, county board, or equivalent
  16. Other offices, or highest military rank earned

6.2: Changes of political party

The civil title styles described above should refer to the political party under whose banner an official was elected or appointed to the office with which they are being identified. If the official subsequently changed party affiliation this may be noted in the text, but the parenthetical reference should not be changed until that official has been reelected or reappointed under that new banner.

If relevant, previous party affiliations may also be noted in the text. If an individual was elected as an independent but caucuses with or otherwise affiliates with a party while in office, this may be noted in the text, but the parenthetical reference should continue to identify the official as independent.

6.3: Election endorsements and results

Each candidate appearing on the official ballot in an election should be categorized in endorsements as a “major candidate” or “minor candidate.” Major candidates are those expected to receive five percent or more of the popular vote. Minor candidates are those expected to receive less than five percent of the popular vote.

Write-in candidates should be excluded from consideration unless they are expected to receive five percent or more of the popular vote. In these cases, write-in candidates expected to receive twenty-five percent or more of the popular vote should be categorized as “major candidates,” and those expected to receive five percent or more of the popular vote, but less than twenty-five percent, should be categorized as “minor candidates.”

In endorsements and recommendations, evaluate the candidates in the following order:

  1. Incumbent seeking reelection, regardless of major or minor status
  2. Major candidates, alphabetized by last name
  3. Minor candidates, alphabetized by last name

In news-style and tabular reporting of election results, list all candidates who appeared on the ballot in alphabetical order by last name without regard for major or minor status or the ordering on the ballot itself. Write-in candidates are normally combined under a listing for “Other,” but may be tabulated separately in post-election coverage.

6.4: U.S. political parties

The political party system in the United States dates to about 1787. The dominant parties have changed over time as some dissolve and new ones emerge, but at any given time there have usually been two major parties and several smaller parties. In the Tangent style, parties are categorized and abbreviated in a standard manner for use in parenthetical civil title references (see Tangent 6.1). Closely related parties are grouped together under a single name and abbreviation.

Parties currently operating are included if they are formal, independent organizations that select or endorse political candidates in the United States of America or the Commonwealth of Virginia and have earned at least 0.1% of the popular vote in the most recent major state or federal elections.

Parties that are defunct or no longer have significant support are included if they were formal, independent organizations that selected or endorsed political candidates in the United States of America or the Commonwealth of Virginia and earned at least five percent of the popular vote in at least one major state or federal election.

Some loose organizations, factions of other parties, and parties that do not qualify under the above general criteria are included if they are historically notable or are closely related to parties that do qualify.

When possible, parties are listed by their official names, but other common names and nicknames are listed as well. When multiple parties share similar or identical names, the party’s founder, an early key figure, or another unique identifier is included parenthetically for the purpose of differentiation.

Parties are categorized into the following four groups:

  • “Current major parties” are those whose candidates have earned five percent or more of the popular vote in the most recent election for President of the United States, U.S. Senate from Virginia, or Governor of Virginia.
  • “Current minor parties” are those whose candidates have earned 0.1% or more of the popular vote in the most recent election for President of the United States, U.S. Senate from Virginia, or Governor of Virginia, but less than five percent.
  • “Former major parties” are those whose candidates have earned five percent or more of the popular vote in multiple past elections for President of the United States, U.S. Senate from Virginia, or Governor of Virginia, but have since disbanded or no longer draw 0.1% or more of the popular vote.
  • “Other parties” are those whose candidates have earned more than five percent of the popular vote in only one election for President of the United States, U.S. Senate from Virginia, or Governor of Virginia, or are otherwise notable.

Following is a list of U.S. political parties falling into these categories from 1787 to present:

  • Current major parties:
    • D: Democratic; incorporates:
      • Democratic-Republican, Jackson faction (1824-1825) (see note 1)
      • Jacksonians [a.k.a. Jacksonian Democrats] (1825-1828)
      • Democratic Party (Jackson) (1828-1860; 1861-present)
      • Democratic Party, Douglas faction (1860-1861)
    • R: Republican; incorporates:
      • Liberty Party (1840-1848)
      • Free Soil Party (1848-1854)
      • Opposition Party (Northern) (1854)
      • Republican Party (Fremont) [a.k.a. Grand Old Party] (1854-1864; 1868-present)
      • National Union Party (1864-1868)
  • Current minor parties:
    • C: Constitution; incorporates:
      • U.S. Taxpayers’ Party (1991-1999)
      • Constitution Party (1999-present)
    • G: Green; incorporates:
      • Association of State Green Parties (1996-2001)
      • Green Party U.S. (2001-present)
    • L: Libertarian; incorporates:
      • Libertarian Party (1971-present)
  • Former major parties:
    • DR: Democratic-Republican; incorporates:
      • Anti-Federalists (1787-1789)
      • Jefferson faction [a.k.a. Anti-Administration] (1789-1791)
      • Republican Party (Jefferson) [a.k.a. Democratic-Republican] (1791-1824) (see note 1)
    • DS: Democratic (Southern) (see note 2); incorporates:
      • Nullifier Party (1828-1839)
      • Democratic Party, Breckinridge faction [a.k.a. Fire-Eaters] (1860-1861)
      • Democratic Party (Confederate States of America) (1861-1864)
      • States’ Rights Democratic Party [a.k.a. Dixiecrats] (1948)
      • American Independent Party (1967-1969)
    • F: Federalist (see note 3); incorporates:
      • Federalists (Publius) (1787-1789)
      • Federalist Party (Hamilton) (1789-1824)
    • RP: Reform; incorporates:
      • Perot faction (1992-1995)
      • Reform Party (1995-present)
    • S: Socialist; incorporates:
      • Social Democracy of America (Debs) (1897-1898)
      • Social Democratic Party of America (Debs) (1898-1901)
      • Socialist Party of America (Debs) (1901-1957)
      • Socialist Party-Social Democratic Federation (SP-SDF) (1957-1972)
      • Socialist Party USA (Zeidler) (1973-present)
    • SD: Social Democratic; incorporates:
      • Social Democratic Federation (Waldman) (1936-1957)
      • Democratic Socialist Federation (1957-1972)
      • Social Democrats USA (Kemble) (1972-2005)
      • Social Democrats USA (Friend) (2009-present)
    • W: Whig; incorporates:
      • Democratic-Republican, Adams faction (1824-1825) (see note 1)
      • National Republican Party [a.k.a. Anti-Jacksonians] (1825-1833)
      • Whig Party (1833-1854)
      • Opposition Party (Southern) (1854-1860)
      • Constitutional Union Party (1860-1861)
  • Other parties:
    • AM: Anti-Masonic; incorporates:
      • Anti-Masonic Party (1828-1840)
    • CM: Communist; incorporates:
      • Communist Party USA (1919-present)
    • KN: Know-Nothing; incorporates:
      • Native American Party [a.k.a. Know-Nothing Party] (1844-1855)
      • American Party [a.k.a. Know-Nothing Party] (1855-1860)
    • LF: La Follette Progressive; incorporates:
      • Progressive Party (La Follette) (1924-1934)
    • PE: People’s; incorporates:
      • People’s Party [a.k.a. Populist Party] (1892-1909)
    • PR: Progressive; incorporates:
      • Progressive Party (Roosevelt) [a.k.a. Bull Moose Party] (1912-1916)
    • RE: Readjuster; incorporates:
      • Readjuster Party (Virginia) (1877-1895)
    • CO: Conservative; incorporates:
      • Conservative Party of Virginia (1965)

Note 1: The Democratic-Republican Party (founded by Thomas Jefferson and officially known as the Republican Party) broke into two factions in 1824 and dissolved soon after. These factions are categorized with their successor parties. The faction led by Andrew Jackson developed into the Democratic Party. The faction led by John Quincy Adams developed into the National Republican Party and then the Whig Party.

Note 2: The party labeled “Democratic (Southern)” is not a single formal entity. The label represents the southern wing of the Democratic Party during several periods where it operated independently or semi-independently from the main party organization.

Note 3: The first President of the United States, George Washington, was elected as an independent (I) and should be labeled as such even though he aligned closely with the Federalist Party. Washington is, thus far, the only U.S. president who did not have a formal party affiliation.

6.5: U.S. government agencies

For the full names and preferred abbreviations of U.S. government departments, agencies, and other entities, and for general style guidance on matters relating to the U.S. government, refer to the following resources:

Adapt style guidance as needed to conform with Tangent and Chicago.

7: Matters of Religion

7.1: Religious style, usage, and spelling

(Modifies Chicago 8.26, 8.91-111, and 10.22.)

Refer to the following primary religious style, usage, and spelling guides:

Throughout this document, the primary religion guide is referred to as CNS and the primary religion dictionary is referred to as Catholic Dictionary.

Because CNS is intended for writers using the A.P. Stylebook, its style guidance is not compatible with Chicago and must be adapted. Its usage guidance, however, should normally be considered prescriptive except where it conflicts with Tangent. Spellings of religious terms in the Catholic Dictionary should normally be considered prescriptive as well, unless contradicted by Tangent or CNS.

For religious terms not appearing in Catholic Dictionary, refer to the standard primary and secondary dictionaries (see Tangent 4.1). For further guidance, the following secondary religious style and usage guides may be consulted in the listed order of preference, but their guidance should not be considered prescriptive:

After these, the religious sections of the primary and secondary style guides (see Tangent 2.1) should be consulted. Other religious guides and references may be consulted, though their guidance also should not be considered prescriptive.

Religious beliefs should be treated with respect and deference as much as possible without sacrificing credibility or violating the principle of truth and accuracy (see Tangent 5.1).

7.2: Judaism and Christianity

The primary Christian holy book is the Bible, which is a compilation of books and letters that are traditionally divided into the Old and New Testaments. The primary Jewish holy book is the Tanakh, which is nearly the same as the Christian Old Testament but has some differences in order and interpretation. Most religious Jews and Christians believe, to varying degrees, that their scriptures are divinely inspired.

It is often preferable to refer to the Tanakh or Old Testament as the Hebrew Scriptures, and the New Testament as the Christian Scriptures, out of respect for the two faiths’ shared heritage. In Christian contexts, referring to them as the Old Testament and the New Testament is acceptable. In Jewish contexts, referring to the scripture as the Tanakh is also acceptable.

As the source for direct quotes from the Bible, and for prescriptive guidance on names and spellings of the books of scripture, refer to the following primary English translation:

For further detail and alternate interpretations, refer to the following secondary English translations of the Bible in the listed order of preference:

Catholic translations should be preferred for general scripture reference, but Protestant and Jewish translations may be consulted for comparative purposes, especially when discussing differences of interpretation between Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish sects.

For more in-depth study of scripture, refer to the following translations and their parallel texts:

CNS prefers the New American Bible, Revised Edition, whereas Tangent prefers the Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition. With this notable exception, CNS guidance on scripture, with adaptation for compatibility with Chicago, should generally be followed.

When referring specifically to the daily Mass readings of the Catholic Church, it may be preferable to quote directly from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, published by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, which is based primarily on the New American Bible, Revised Edition and contains the texts read during Masses in the U.S.

For detailed summaries of Jewish and Christian subjects, refer to the following topic-specific reference works:

7.3: Islam

The primary Islamic holy book is the Qur’an, which is a collection of chapters (or surahs) that most religious Muslims believe were dictated by God (Allah) to Muhammad through the Angel Gabriel. “Qur’an” is the preferred spelling in the Tangent style. (Chicago prefers “Koran” and CNS prefers “Quran.”)

As the source for direct quotes from an English translation of the Qu’ran, and for prescriptive guidance on names and spellings from the Qur’an, refer to the following primary English translation:

For further detail and alternate interpretations, refer to the following secondary English translations of the Qur’an in the listed order of preference:

According to traditional Islamic belief, only the original Arabic text is the Qur’an. When quoting from translations into other languages, state clearly that you are quoting from a translation of the Qur’an, not from the Qur’an itself.

For detailed summaries of Islamic topics, refer to the following topic-specific reference work:

7.4: Other religions

Most religious texts were originally composed in languages other than English. Translation of these texts into English requires interpretation, and no translation is perfect or universally accepted.

Generally, when quoting from or analyzing religious texts, it is preferable to use translations made by and accepted by adherents of the faith. If no single translation is universally or nearly universally accepted, then a selection of the most widely accepted translations should be consulted. Outside scholarly translations may also be consulted if needed.

For detailed summaries of religious subjects not covered by the resources listed in Tangent 7.2 and 7.3, refer to the following topic-specific reference work:

8: Science, Measurement, and Time

8.1: Scientific style, usage, and spelling

(Modifies Chicago 8.119-8.152 and 10.49-10.68.)

Refer to the following primary scientific and medical style, usage, and spelling guides in the listed order of preference:

Guidance in these publications should not be considered prescriptive. For detailed summaries of scientific and medical subjects, refer to the following topic-specific reference works:

8.2: Measurements

Use weights and measures defined by U.S. law and the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). NIST defines and recognizes both the International System of Units (S.I. or metric system) and the U.S. Customary Unit System (imperial system). The metric system should be preferred except as described in this section.

Detailed information about these standards can be found in the following documents:

Some metric units are now well understood by U.S. readers—liters for fluids, grams for lightweight objects, millimeters and centimeters for short lengths, and meters over short distances. These can often be used without conversion, but there are exceptions. For example, although most U.S. readers are familiar with one-liter soft drinks, the idea of purchasing gasoline (petrol) by the liter is practically incomprehensible. When writing for an audience including people from the U.S., add a parenthetical conversion to the equivalent U.S. measure unless you are certain that a metric reference will be understood.

In some cases, non-metric measurements should be used because they are more familiar or useful or because they are widely adopted in a specialized field. When writing for an audience including people from outside the U.S., add a parenthetical conversion to the equivalent metric measure. Some specialized measurements may be unfamiliar to both U.S. and non-U.S. audiences; these should be converted to both metric and U.S. measurements.

Normally, precision should be maintained when converting between measurements. A measurement expressed to the hundredths place in one system should be converted to a measurement also expressed to the hundredths place. An exception should be made when converting a whole integer measure, or when measurements differ by an order of magnitude. For example, 1 mile is 1.6 kilometers, and 10.5 milliliters is 0.36 fluid ounces. Another exception is described in note 4 below.

Following are some contexts where non-metric measurements should normally be preferred:

  • In aviation contexts, use feet for altitude, nautical miles for distance, and knots for speed (see note 1).
  • In maritime contexts, use nautical miles for distance and knots for speed (see note 1).
  • In U.S. travel contexts, use miles for distance, miles-per-hour for speed, and gallons for volume of fuel (see note 2).
  • For ambient indoor or outdoor temperature, use degrees Fahrenheit (see note 3 and note 4).

Note 1: Nautical miles and knots may be unfamiliar to both U.S. and non-U.S. readers. Consider adding a parenthetical conversion to both U.S. and metric measures—from nautical miles to miles and kilometers, and from knots to miles-per-hour and kilometers-per-hour.

Note 2: When writing about travel in other countries, use kilometers, kilometers-per-hour, and liters of fuel, but consider adding a parenthetical conversion to U.S. units as described in this section.

Note 3: Temperatures in scientific contexts should normally be expressed in Kelvin or degrees Celsius, both of which are considered metric measurements. Kelvin is generally unfamiliar to nonscientific audiences, so consider providing a parenthetical conversion to both degrees Fahrenheit and degrees Celsius.

Note 4: In nonscientific contexts, degrees Fahrenheit are usually expressed as whole integers, and degrees Celsius, which are less precise, are usually expressed in tenths. For example, 70 degrees Fahrenheit is 21.1 degrees Celsius, and 32.5 degrees Celsius is 91 degrees Fahrenheit (rounded up from 90.5).

8.3: Time and time zones

Measure time according to U.S. law and U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) standards for the Eastern Time Zone (ET; UTC-5), including daylight saving time (UTC-4) from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November.

Detailed information about U.S. standard time can be found in the following documents:

When possible, time should be synchronized within ten seconds of U.S. standard time. Following are reliable time sources that can be used for manual or electronic synchronization:

Time zones other than ET may be used when relevant, especially when writing about current events occurring in other places. Normally it is best to express time in ET with the other time zone added parenthetically, although the positions may be reversed when emphasizing an event’s local time. For example, 5:40 p.m. ET (6:40 a.m. JST) or 10:25 a.m. CEST (4:25 a.m. ET).

Although times should normally be shown in ET, it is best to store time information in databases and other electronic media in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) or Unix time, whichever is preferred by the system being used. Both systems are time zone agnostic and can be easily converted to ET or any other time zone.

8.4: Map projections

Because the Earth is a roughly spherical three-dimensional body, depicting it fairly and accurately in two dimensions presents difficulties. Sometimes it is preferable to use a three-dimensional rendering (i.e., a digital globe). For purely two-dimensional renderings, many map projection systems have been developed. Each has different strengths and weaknesses.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) produces a Map Projections poster that presents examples of the most common projections and describes the key attributes of each. When possible, choose the most appropriate projection for the situation. When reproducing maps made by others, take note of what projection its creators used. In either case, it may be necessary to describe the projection’s weaknesses (e.g., “distances are not shown to scale”).

­For maps of the entire world, the Miller cylindrical projection is usually the best choice. It is a compromise projection that attempts to balance conformality, accurate area, and accurate distance. It presents the world in a way that is recognizable and familiar, but without the extreme size distortions near the poles in the more common Mercator cylindrical projection (which is best suited for navigation, not presentation).

For maps of the entire United States, or areas of similar size, the Albers equal-area conic projection is usually the best choice. In this projection, map elements are proportionally sized but there is some distortion of shape and distance.

For maps of states, cities, and regions, the Lambert conformal conic projection is usually the best choice. In this projection, map elements are shaped correctly but there is some distortion of size and distance.

9: Technology and Accessibility

9.1: Overview

Chicago’s chapter 1 and chapter 2 offer guidance for electronic publications and manuscripts, but that guidance is oriented toward standalone e-books and documents. Little guidance is provided for electronic publication in a website format. This section provides technical guidance and principles for website publication.

9.2: Web browser support

There are hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of possible combinations of computer operating systems and web browsers. It would be impossible to proactively support all of them. But website publishers must take care to ensure that their content is made available to a wide audience. A website that looks incorrect or is inaccessible to a reader undermines the credibility of the content published there.

There are four widely used desktop and laptop operating systems: Apple MacOS, Google Chrome OS, Linux (various distributions), and Microsoft Windows. There are three widely used mobile device operating systems: Apple iOS, Apple iPadOS, and Google Android. Chrome OS and Windows are sometimes used on tablet devices as well. Supporting the default, built-in web browsers in the most recent version of each of these operating systems is the bare minimum of acceptable website support.

Apple Safari is the default browser in each of Apple’s desktop and mobile operating systems. Google Chrome is the default browser in each of Google’s. Microsoft Edge is the default browser in Windows. Mozilla Firefox is the default browser in most mainstream Linux distributions.

A website designed to work properly in the above listed browsers and operating systems is likely to work properly in most others. Several of those browsers are available in other operating systems, and less common browsers are often based on the same browser display engines used by the major ones. A website publisher may of course choose to support other browsers, operating systems, and combinations thereof.

When determining what browsers to support, consult the website’s usage statistics. They are likely to resemble broader browser usage trends (see Usage share of web browsers on Wikipedia), but a particular website’s statistics may differ, especially if it has a specialized audience. It is usually best to support and test in any browser that accounts for at least three percent of a website’s readership, but a website publisher may set a different threshold.

9.3: Standards and compliance

The Internet uses various technical standards to help ensure interoperability between the billions of devices that use it.

Websites deliver documents to web browsers in Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), define styles with Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), and control interactive and programmatic features with ECMAScript (also called JavaScript or JS). Data is often stored and interchanged in Extensible Markup Language (XML) or the JSON Data Interchange Syntax (JSON).

Countless other formats and document types can be posted online for viewing or download, but those described above form the basis of Internet publishing. Ideally, all HTML, CSS, JS, XML, and JSON should be written in compliance with those formats’ published standards. Standards compliant code is more likely to work properly in current and future web browsers. Utilize code validation services to improve compliance.

Following are standards and validators for each of these primary Internet formats:

9.4: Accessibility

There is more to publishing a website than ensuring compatibility with the most common browsers and compliance with web standards. The Internet is a great equalizer and content on it should be made accessible to all people, including those with disabilities.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the same standards organization that developed most of the key web publishing standards, also produces the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines are intended to “make content accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity[,] and combinations of these.”

Make a reasonable effort to comply with the latest WCAG guidelines. Specifically, ensure that non-text content includes text alternatives, that the website is navigable by keyboard, and that text is readable and has sufficient color contrast. These make website content available to people with disabilities, but also improve usability and readability for all users.

Refer to the following WCAG standard document and accessibility tester:

10: Holiday Observances

10.1: Overview

Mark important holidays with a special image and message appropriate for that holiday. If two or more holidays occur on the same day those listed earlier in the following sections take precedence over those listed later. Holidays to be marked include Catholic Christian observances, U.S. federal and Virginia state observances, and other personal and cultural observances.

10.2: Catholic Christian holidays

Typical dates are listed below for each of these holidays. Observances may be moved in accordance with Canon Law, national norms, and determinations by local bishops. Always consult the Liturgical Calendar for the Dioceses of the United States of America, which is published annually by the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship, and the Arlington Diocese website to verify observance dates.

The following religious holidays should be observed:

  • Holy days of obligation in the United States (Canon 1246 and U.S. Norms):
    • Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God – January 1
    • Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord – Sunday after forty days after Easter
    • Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – August 15
    • Solemnity of All Saints – November 1
    • Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary – December 8
    • Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas) – December 25
  • Days of fasting and abstinence (Canon 1251):
    • Ash Wednesday – forty-six days before Easter
    • Friday of the Passion of the Lord (Good Friday) – Friday before Easter
  • Principal celebrations of the liturgical year (USCCB Calendar):
    • Solemnity of the Resurrection of the Lord (Easter) – Sunday after the full moon after March 21
    • Solemnity of Pentecost – fifty days after Easter
    • Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) – second Sunday after Pentecost
    • First Sunday of Advent – fourth Sunday before Christmas
  • Other solemnities in the United States (USCCB Calendar):
    • Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord – Sunday after January 1
    • Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary – March 19
    • Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord – March 25
    • Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – first Sunday after Pentecost
    • Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus – Friday after the second Sunday after Pentecost
    • Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist – June 24
    • Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles – June 29
    • Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe – last Sunday before Advent
  • Other selected Catholic observances (USCCB Calendar):
    • Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children – January 22
    • Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord – one week before Easter
    • Thursday of Holy Week (Holy Thursday) – Thursday before Easter
    • Holy Saturday – Saturday before Easter
    • Memorial of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr – August 14
    • Feast of Saint Jude Thaddeus – October 28

10.3: Federal and state holidays

Typical dates are listed below for each of these holidays. Observances may be moved in accordance with the law, especially when they fall on a weekend, so always consult the latest U.S. Office of Personnel Management list of federal holidays and the Virginia Department of Human Resource Management pay and holiday calendar to verify observance dates.

The following government recognized holidays should be observed:

  • U.S. federal holidays (5 USC §6103):
    • New Year’s Day – January 1
    • Birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. – third Monday in January
    • Washington’s Birthday – third Monday in February (see note 1)
    • Independence Day – July 4
    • Labor Day – first Monday in September
    • Thanksgiving Day – fourth Thursday in November
    • Christmas Day – December 25
  • Virginia state holidays (VA Code §2.2-3300):
    • New Year’s Day – January 1
    • Martin Luther King Jr. Day – third Monday in January
    • George Washington Day – third Monday in February (see note 1)
    • Memorial Day – last Monday in May
    • Independence Day – July 4
    • Labor Day – first Monday in September
    • Columbus Day & Yorktown Victory Day – second Monday in October
    • Election Day – Tuesday after the first Monday in November
    • Veterans Day – November 11
    • Thanksgiving – fourth Thursday in November and the Friday following
    • Christmas – December 24 and 25
  • Other selected federal and state observances:
    • National Day of Prayer – first Thursday in May (36 USC §119)
    • Constitution Day and Citizenship Day – September 17 (36 USC §106)
    • National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day – December 7 (36 USC §129)

Note 1: The holiday that falls on the third Monday in February is defined in federal law as “Washington’s Birthday” and in Virginia law as “George Washington Day,” both in honor of the first U.S. president, George Washington (I). It is popularly celebrated as “Presidents Day” in honor of all U.S. presidents. Tangent follows the official designations and honors Washington.

Note 2: The Virginia holiday “Juneteenth,” recognizing the end of chattel slavery in the United States, was declared by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) in Executive Order 2020-66. It does not yet appear in the Code of Virginia but is expected to be adopted by the Virginia General Assembly within the next year.

10.4: Personal and other holidays

The following personal and other holidays should be observed:

  • Personal Holidays
    • Confirmation Day – April 11
    • Wedding Anniversary – May 28
    • Birthday – October 28
    • Baptism Day – December 20
  • Family and cultural holidays
    • Chinese Lunar New Year (農曆新年) – new moon between January 21 and February 20
    • Polish Constitution Day – May 3
    • Mayflower Day – September 16
    • Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節) – full moon between September 8 and October 7

11: Law and Copyright

11.1: Civil law

Comply with all duly enacted, constitutionally permissible laws, ordinances, and regulations of the United States of America, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and Loudoun County, Virginia. There is no obligation to comply with laws, ordinances, and regulations that are enacted outside of the constitutional authorities granted to the government by the affirmative consent of the people, or those that conflict with the higher laws of God and nature.

Refer to the following official sources for these laws, ordinances, and regulations:

11.2: Canon law

Comply with all duly enacted laws and norms promulgated by Holy See, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the Bishop of the Diocese of Arlington.

Refer to the following official sources for these laws and norms:

In addition, give careful attention to Inter Mirificia, the decree on the media of social communications, promulgated by Pope Saint Paul VI on December 4, 1963.

11.3: Copyright, generally

Written content should normally be published under the following license:

Written content intended for sharing and reuse should be published under one of the less restrictive Creative Commons licenses. Content that must be more tightly restricted can be published under a standard “All Rights Reserved” license.

A distinction should be made between published content, which should be made available under the above terms, and website style or design elements which can and should be more tightly restricted with appropriate copyright and trademark protections.

11.4: Copyright of this guide

This document, the Tangent Style Guide (Eighth Edition), is licensed under the following license:

Quoting from the Creative Commons summary, this license allows you to “copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format,” and “remix, transform, and build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially.” The only significant restriction is that you “must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.”

If you choose to use this style guide without modification and without copying or redistributing it, attribution is appreciated but is not required.