The Duck of Minerva

Style Guide


  • We have no firm guidelines when it comes to length. As a rule of thumb, standard posts should run between 250 and 1500 words; symposia pieces should run 500-1500 words.


  • Shorter is better. Don’t all-caps or small-caps your title. Our formatting is all automated.


  • Provide us with a short excerpt that summarizes/teases the contents of the piece.

General Formatting

  • Books and journals are italicized, articles are in American-style quotations.
  • We use the serial comma.
  • Use em-dashes — rather than double dashes (–) — to offset text; put spaces between the dashes and other text.
  • Italics are our preferred form of emphasis. Bold is acceptable. Don’t change the color of your text.
  • Contractions aren’t prohibited, and y’all can use colloquial English if it tracks with your authorial voice.
  • Any acceptable form of English spelling (U.S., UK, &c) is fine; be consistent, but keep the spelling of original quotations intact.
  • We follow American-style quotations (outer quotations use look like this “blah” and not this ‘blah’).Punctuation should usually go inside of the close quotation, even when truncating a sentence: “blah blah.” rather than “blah blah….” or “blah blah”.
  • Endnotes are a last resort; we prefer links for references and additional explanation.If possible, use a single endnote and mark it with an *. You do not need to use anchors and links for navigation to and from a single * endnote, but you do for numbered endnotes.
  • Journal names and book titles should be italicized.
  • The United States should be abbreviated as “U.S.” when used as an adjective and written out when used as a noun.

Guest Author Biographies

  • Guest authors should provide the following:
    • A long bio, with relevant links. Do not include your website, social media links, or email. Those are displayed separately.
    • A short version of the bio.
    • A headshot of at least 500×500 pixels (if the aspect ratio isn’t 1:1, you may want to include a cropped version rather than leave that up to us) in .jpg or .png format.
    • The URL (yes, the full URL, not just your handle) for, as appropriate, your Twitter handle, LinkedIn page, etc.
    • If you want your email to be clickable from your bio, let us know and provide it.
  • We will let you know when it’s time to provide this material. Please include everything (other than the headshot) in a single .docx or .rtf do document.

  • Posts should have embedded links. These include:
    • References. Posts should not have footnotes or in-line citations. Use hyperlinks instead.
    • Explanations and definitions. You can “offload” definitions of technical terms, terms of art, and concepts via hyperlinks. As a general rule, link to material that isn’t paywalled.
    • Discussion and debate. You should try to link to online material – including other blogposts – that make similar or opposing arguments. FWIW, The Duck of Minerva has an extensive back catalog and someone has likely blogged about cognate issues in the past.

Stylistic Matters

  • It’s fine to use academic terms, but use ordinary language as much as possible. Substitute simpler words for more complex ones. Remember:
    • The word “utilize” is not identical to “use.” “Extant” is not just a fancy way of saying “exist.”
    • You can define terms of art inter alia or by linking to an explanation.
    • You may think it’s pretty accessible, but you’re probably wrong. Take a fresh look.
    • Try to keep the tone consistent. It doesn’t make your prose more informal if you scatter some colloquialisms among turgid academic prose. It just looks weird.
  • Get to the point. We’re conditioned to spend too much space situating our arguments or reviewing literature. Pretty much every draft post we receive has far too much throat clearing.
  • We’re also socialized to qualify claims into oblivion. Don’t. Also avoid standard CYA tactics such as overpraising work or arguments you’re about to criticize.
  • Don’t use the passive voice.
  • One space after periods. We’re not monsters..
  • Avoid excessive use of the verb “to be.”
  • Try to keep sentences under three clauses.
  • Use short paragraphs. Long paragraphs don’t work particularly well online. And by “short” we mean short – as short as a single sentence.
  • Do not use non-standard acronyms and initialisms (by “non-standard” we mean in the context of ordinary language, not academic writing).
  • Use headers to break up posts. Don’t worry about fancy formatting. If we can tell they’re headers that’s enough.
  • If you want to supply a picture for a post, make sure 1) it’s large and 2) that you provide us with copyright and attribution info.
  • It’s okay for posts to lack developed conclusions.