Low End Mac’s Guide to English Usage, Punctuation, and Spelling

Not only does Low End Mac serve an international audience, we also have writers from around the globe. Most of our staff is in the United States, and we also have writers in Canada, the UK, and France. Because of this, we’ve tried to standardize on some of the spelling, punctuation, and usage issues that come from variations around the world.

The majority of our readers are in the US, followed by the UK, Canada, and Australia – and then a bunch of non-English speaking countries.

Overall, the free version of Grammarly does a great job of flagging some of the little things you might miss in your own writing, like a dropped letter while typing. (I do that a lot.) Grammarly is a recommended writing and editing aid, but it has its limitations. And you’ll want to teach it a lot of tech words and trademarks that it doesn’t know.

American or International English Spelling?

Our rule of thumb is that US writers should write using American spelling, UK and Australia writers using International English spelling, Canadian writers their own hybrid of the two (in some areas, Canadians spell American, in others, British, and sometimes the two coexist), and other writers whatever version of English they learned.

Grammarly can be set for American, Canadian, British, or Australian English.

The Serial Comma (Oxford Comma)

In a series of three or more items, the comma before the conjunction (and, but, etc.) is optional. Some style guides tell you not to use it unless its absence may create confusion. Other style guides tell you to always use that comma. For the sake of consistency and clarity, that’s what we do at Low End Mac.

Grammarly doesn’t like the Oxford comma and will ask you to remove it.

Avoid ‘Smart’ Quotes

Whether you call them smart quotes or curly quotes, they do look nicer than straight “dumb” quotes – but they can also be a nightmare for people who cut and paste copy. And if you’re not careful, sometimes the smart quote curls the wrong way. It’s simply safer not to use them, making it easy for people to quote from Low End Mac. WordPress will automatically make dumb quotes smart.

This used to be a hard-and-fast rule, but it’s a soft rule since WordPress will make smart quotes for you.

Quote Marks and Apostrophes

Because the majority of our audience is in the US, we observe American usage here: Double quotes around direct quotes and single quotes around quotations within quotations. This is the opposite of International English usage, but we want to be consistent here.

Exception: In headings, we always use single quotes.

Quote Marks with Punctuation

When it comes to using quote marks around a word or phrase, we tend to follow the International English standard. The rule is this: Punctuation goes outside of the quote marks unless it is part of the quoted material.

Editing for Clarity

Sometimes the way we speak and the way we write is a bit different. One writer might include that in a sentence where another doesn’t see it as necessary. Our rule is that if it might be unclear, clarify it. This probably accounts for the bulk of our editing, minor additions and deletions of words, occasional rearranging of words, etc.

Above All, Keep the Writer’s Voice Intact

As a writer, I hate it when someone edits my writing so that it no longer reads in the way I wrote it. Editors should strive to keep the author’s voice, editing as little as necessary to meet house rules of usage, punctuation, etc.