Is there a style guide? Would one be useful?


Does the WTFJHT newsletter have a style guide? Would it be useful to have one? What would be in it?

I thought of this in response to an item in today’s:

10/ Democrats have moved to revoke Jared Kushner’s security clearance, introducing the Security Clearance Review Act, […] At least 20 Democrats have cosigned on the bill.

What’s missing here is which Democrats. 20 Democrats is practically a caucus in the Senate, but barely a committee in the House. And it turns out these are members of the House. I love the summaries because I don’t need to click through for details (only schadenfreude), but that particular detail was fairly important.

How to phrase this in a style guide? “Identify subject(s) concisely but unambiguously”?

(Matt Kiser) #2

That’s a great idea. I’ve been meaning to revisit my old AP Style Guide, which is where most of my “style” is derived from anyway.

I tend to try and “write for humans,” often reducing the oft-stodgy journalistic style of always giving people titles and full names to just their last name (i.e. not calling him President Donald J. Trump on first reference, but instead referring to him as simply Trump). The result is something that takes on a more friendly tone – sort of the way you’d expect somebody to verbally recount the news to you.


I think maybe mentioning House vs Senate is enough? I hate to make blurb-writing into more of a PITA than it probably is.

(Matt Kiser) #4

lol yeah. at the same time, i gotta tighten this shizz up. inconsistencies like FBI vs F.B.I. is irritating enough!


Can I ask what platform this forum is being run on? It’s extremely beautiful! Loving the layout (and everything else).

(Matt Kiser) #6

Discourse. Free and open source. There are paid, hosted options, too.


Thanks! I’ve been consistently impressed at the polish and presentation of WTFJHT. Keep on keepin’ on!

(Matt Kiser) #8

lol thanks! I should thank my journalism teachers, Susan and Steve.


Oh, I hadn’t realized you were a trained journalist. I just thought you were a dude who decided to start something and it took off.

Maybe you should do an “About Me” page somewhere, if you haven’t already.

(Matt Kiser) #10

It’s complicated! Worked for about a year as a music journalist professional. Hated it. Quit. Moved into product management for 10 years. Life came full circle.


The Pet Shop Boys were both music journalists and then tried their hand at music. Maybe you can start a band and be the next hot thing! :slight_smile:

WTFITCM (What the Fuck is That Cool Music?)

(Lea Galanter) #12

Yes! A style guide is necessary if you want to look remotely professional. Having someone edit your text would be great as well (no offense, but I do notice errors and ways to improve the text – I’m a copy editor by trade and I love making people look good).

(Matt Kiser) #13

I’m getting close to being able to bring a few people into the fold on a regular basis to help with copyedits. The content is entirely open sourced (here:, so anybody is free to make a pull request to fix something. Or hit me up on the WTF Pager (the dot in the lower right-hand corner of the site).

re: looking professional. The f-bomb in the name ain’t doing me no favors :wink:

(Denise) #14

Re: looking professional. These are interesting times and the f-bomb is appropriate. Provided you are not a top White House employee and you’re commenting on fellow employees. Or better yet, make sure the person you’re talking to is not a writer for the New Yorker.

(Matt Kiser) #15

i’m fascinated by this topic. i’m always trying to get better and would prefer to have clean copy, but not because it will look “professional.” i care about it being readable and digestible, mostly.

everything is open sourced to give peeps the tools and agency to contribute, however big or small. i tend to see typos and grammar mixups as really just a form of honesty: i’m just a dude trying to document this as your peer, and while i’ll try to catch things and limit mistakes, i’m not going to get bent out of shape over fucking up its vs it’s or effect and affect. there’s definitely a balance and internal compass here.


Yeah, I’m definitely not trying to call you out on not looking professional enough. The tone is a big part of why I read every digest (200!) as soon as I see them in my inbox. You’ve found a sweet spot on the spectrum between dispassionate presentation of facts and the overwhelming moral outrage, anger and hysteria we probably are all experiencing constantly.

I guess I’m mostly curious what parts of your process are planned that way, and which are a matter of intuition.

(Matt Kiser) #17

Honestly, it’s just a reflection of who I am and how I think. I’m not trying to convince you that this is what happened. Either you’re in or you’re out, and the irreverence of the name speaks to that.