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 two files:
      • A text document (.docx or .rft) with:
        • 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.
        • The URL (yes, the full URL, not just your handle) for, as appropriate, your Twitter handle, LinkedIn page, homepage, etc. If you want your email to be clickable from your bio, let us know and provide it. Each of these items should go on a separate line after your biography. Do not put them in a footnote.
      • 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.

    • 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.