Lemonly Style Guide



Included are a number of common rules and spellings often used. For more rules on common errors, please refer to this useful compendium: bit.ly/grammarisfun


Some acronyms and abbreviations are acceptable but not required (FBI, CIA, GOP). The context should govern such decisions.

As a general rule, avoid “alphabet soup.” If an abbreviation or acronym isn’t well-known, spell it out.


Always strive to use active voice instead of passive. The words “was” and “by” are good indicators of passive voice:

Passive voice: The infographic was designed by Connor. Active voice: Connor designed the infographic.


1. Use the abbreviations “St.,” “Ave.,” “Blvd.” only with a numbered address.

1400 R St.

2. Spell out street designations (street, avenue, boulevard, etc.) when used with a street name and not a specific address.

R Street will be closed for construction. I used to live on First Avenue. The store is at 15th Street and Sheridan Boulevard.

3. Lowercase “streets” when used with more than one street name.

The bus stops at the corner of 14th and R streets.

4. Other street designations (alley, place, drive, road, etc.) should be spelled out. Capitalize them when part of a formal name without a specific number. Leave them lowercase when used alone or with two street names.

5. Always use numerals in specific addresses (don’t spell out street numbers).

6. Numbered street names (such as 14th Street): Spell out and capitalize First through Ninth. Use numerals for 10th and above.

One of Lincoln’s post offices is near Eighth and R streets.

7. Directions: Abbreviate compass-point directions when used in addresses. Do not abbreviate compass points when exact number isn’t given.

2810 S. 42nd St. She lives on South 42nd Street.


There are five distinct words here. When “affect” is accented on the final syllable (a-FECT), it is usually a verb meaning “have an influence on.”

The million-dollar donation from the industrialist did not affect my vote against the Clean Air Act.

Occasionally, a pretentious person is said to affect an artificial air of sophistication. Speaking with a borrowed French accent or ostentatiously wearing a large diamond ear stud might be an affectation. In this sort of context, “affect” means “to make a display of or deliberately cultivate.”

Another unusual meaning is indicated when the word is accented on the first syllable (AFF-ect), meaning “emotion.” In this case, the word is used mostly by psychiatrists and social scientists — people who normally know how to spell it.

The real problem arises when people confuse the first spelling with the second: “effect.” This too can be two different words. The more common one is a noun.

When I left the stove on, the effect was that the house filled with smoke.

When you affect a situation, you have an effect on it.

Note board


Less common is a verb meaning “to create”: “I’m trying to effect a change in the way we purchase widgets.” Note especially that the proper expression is not “take affect” but “take effect” — become effective.

The stuff in a purse? Personal effects. The stuff in movies? Sound effects and special effects.

“Affective” is a technical term having to do with emotions; the vast majority of the time the spelling you want is “effective.”


For ages, always use numerals. If the age is used as an adjective or as a substitute for a noun, then it should be hyphenated. Don’t use apostrophes when describing an age range.

A 21-year-old student. The student is 21 years old. The girl, 8, has a brother, 11. The contest is for 18-year-olds. He is in his 20s.


For plural nouns ending in s, add only an apostrophe: the girls’ toys, states’ rights.

For singular common nouns ending in s, add ‘s: the hostess’s invitation, the witness’s answer.

For singular proper names ending in s, use only an apostrophe: Descartes’ theories, Kansas’ schools.

For singular proper names ending in s sounds such as x, ce, and z, use ‘s: Marx’s theories, the prince’s life.

For plurals of a single letter, add ‘s: Mind your p’s and q’s, the Red Sox defeated the Oakland A’s.

Do not use ‘s for plurals of numbers, or multiple letter combinations: the 1980s, RBIs, dos and don’ts.


  • Alere, Inc.
  • Alorica
  • AthenaHealth
  • BP America
  • Bush Foundation
  • California Teachers Association
  • CDHP
  • Center for Talent Innovation
  • CHAD
  • Char-Broil
  • Chevron USA, Inc.
  • Contently
  • Course Hero
  • Demandbase
  • Discover
  • Ellie Mae
  • Emmanuel David
  • Gartner
  • GlassPoint Solar
  • Gong.io
  • Green Bay Packers
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Homebase.ai
  • Hoover Institution (Stanford)
  • Hyland Software, Inc.
  • IBM
  • ID Analytics
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Kellogg Foundation
  • Kilbourne Group
  • L’Oreal
  • Leidos
  • Lemonly
  • Marriott Digital Services EU
  • Marriott International, Inc.
  • MedStar Health
  • Member’s Choice Credit Union
  • MetaBank
  • MLB
  • Moez Surani
  • Monster
  • MSM Corporation International
  • My Vote Now
  • NAAB
  • Netflix, Inc.
  • New Story
  • Northwestern University Qatar
  • Pfizer
  • Picture Motion
  • Plex
  • Prairie Family Business Association
  • Profile by Sanford
  • PUIG
  • Rightpoint
  • Sanford Health
  • Sioux Falls Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • South Dakota Department of Social Services
  • South Dakota Tourism
  • Stanford School of Engineering
  • Student Loan Hero
  • The Hartford
  • The Priceline Group
  • The Walt Disney Corporation
  • TÜV SÜD Asia Pacific Pte Ltd
  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
  • UCSF School of Pharmacy
  • Vast
  • Viacom
  • Viavi Solutions
  • WebMD
  • Well 365
  • World Bank Group
  • World Bicycle Relief
  • World Health Organization
  • Yext


Capitalize the first word after a colon only if it is a proper noun or the start of a complete sentence.

He promised this: The company will make good all the losses. There were three considerations: expense, time and feasibility.

Colons go outside quotation marks unless they are part of the quoted material.


Include the final comma in a series.

John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

Use a comma to set off a person’s hometown and age.

Jane Doe, Framingham, was absent. Joe Blow, 34, was arrested yesterday.


To be concise, remove all instances of “currently” unless contained within quotations.


Avoid phrases such as “last year” or “next year.” If you’re a reader in 2016, and you happen upon one of our infographics, these phrases won’t apply anymore. “This year” is OK, though, because writing the current year can sound awkward.

For time references, use lowercase letters without periods, and a space after the numeral: 9 am

If a time is on the hour, as in 6 o’clock, avoid needless characters: 6 pm, not 6:00 pm.

Days of the week can be abbreviated, given constrained space. If so, here are the abbreviations:

Sun., Mon., Tue., Wed., Thu., Fri., Sat.

In full dates, we can abbreviate months like so:

Jan., Feb., March, April, May, June, July, Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., Dec.

Lastly, abbreviate U.S. time zones using two letters:

The infographic will be published on Sat., Dec. 20th at 9 am CT.


Use a hyphen for compound adjectives before the noun: well-known actor, full-time job, 20-year sentence.

Do not use a hyphen when the compound modifier occurs after the verb, unless the verb is a helping verb: The actor was well-known. Her job became full time. He was sentenced to 20 years.

Do not use a hyphen to denote an abrupt change in a sentence — use an em dash with a space before and after.

Avoid hyphenating words that normally don’t have hyphens if they’re at the end of a line.

This line is too long, but rather than hyphen-
ating, please fix it so it includes “hyphenating”
on one line.

compound adjectives

If you write two adjectives in a row, ask whether they operate as a team, or individually.

“True blue friend” (Skeeter, Doug’s friend) vs. “True-blue friend” (a loyal friend).

Separate the adjective-noun pairs into new phrases: “true friend” and “blue friend.” If both phrases make sense, you don’t need a hyphen. If one of the new phrases doesn’t make sense, you do need a hyphen.

Note board


Sometimes, when a whole phrase becomes widely recognized, the hyphen disappears.

That means two words will start as two words; later, they’re joined with a hyphen; and finally, they become one word. Consider a word like “email.” “Electronic mail” became “e-mail,” which later became “email.”

Other times, phrases become more commonly written as separate words without a hyphen. Think about “content management system” or “quick reference card.”

So what do you do? First, look for the most-common spelling by doing a search. And when in doubt, use the hyphen.


lie (as in lying down to take a nap on the bean bag)
present: lie
past: lay
present participle: am lying
past participle: have lain

lay (when there’s an object being placed, such as an egg)
present: lay
past: laid
present participle: is laying
past participle: have laid


Ensure links are not broken into two lines by a hyphen, and if they’re at the end of a sentence, remove the punctuation to ensure readability.

Find the best infographics at lemonly.com


We write moodboard as one word because we’re cool like that.


Use “on” before a date for clarity, especially when a proper noun precedes the date.

Howie Mandel shaved off his soul patch on Thursday, July 22, 2014. Some have called for Howie Mandel Soul Patch Day on July 22 in honor of the fallen facial hair.


Spell out the numbers one through nine; for 10 and up, use numerals. For ages and percentages, always use numerals, even for numbers less than 10.

Spell out numerals that start a sentence; if the result is awkward, recast the sentence.

Twenty-seven detainees were released yesterday. Yesterday, 993 freshmen entered the college.

The one exception to this rule is in a sentence that begins with a calendar year

1938 was a turbulent year for Leon.

Use Roman numerals for wars, monarchs and Popes: World War II, King George VI, Pope John XXIII

Note board


The figures 1, 2, 10, 101, and so on and the corresponding words — one, two, ten, one hundred one and so on — are called cardinal numbers. The terms 1st, 2nd, 10th, 101st, first, second, tenth, one hundred first and so on are called ordinal numbers.

For large numbers, use a hyphen to connect a word ending in “y” to another word: twenty-one, one hundred forty-three, seventy-six thousand five hundred eighty-seven.

Do not use commas between other separate words that are part of one number: one thousand one hundred fifty-five.

Spell out casual expressions: A thousand times no!

Use words or numerals according to an organization’s practice: 3M, Twentieth Century Fund, Big Ten.


The perceived need for parentheses is an indication that your sentence is becoming contorted. Try to rewrite the sentence, putting the incidental information in commas, dashes or in another sentence.

If you do use parentheses, follow these guidelines:

If the material is inside a sentence, place the period outside the parentheses.

If the parenthetical statement is a complete independent sentence, place the period inside the parentheses.


When possible, use the lmly.co shortlink, and leave off “http://www.”

Otherwise, leave off the “http://” or “https://”


Whenever possible, spell out the names of states in text.

Wildfires continued to rage through southern California yesterday.

Do not abbreviate Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah (the two states that are not part of the contiguous United States and the states that are five letters or fewer).

Note board


If a design’s space is constrained, abbreviate states when they appear in conjunction with the name of a city, town, village or military base.

Needham, Mass., Oxnard Air Force Base, Calif.

Here are the abbreviations:

  • AL  — for Alabama
  • AK — for Alaska
  • AZ — for Arizona
  • AR — for Arkansas
  • CA — for California
  • CO — for Colorado
  • CT — for Connecticut
  • DE. — for Delaware
  • FL — for Florida
  • GA — for Georgia
  • HI — this state is not abbreviated in text
  • ID — this state is not abbreviated in text
  • IL — for Illinois
  • IN — for Indiana
  • IO — this state is not abbreviated in text
  • KS — for Kansas
  • KY — for Kentucky
  • LA — for Louisiana
  • ME — this state is not abbreviated in text
  • MD — for Maryland
  • MA — for Massachusetts
  • MI — for Michigan
  • MN — for Minnesota
  • MS — for Mississippi
  • MO — for Missouri
  • MT — for Montana
  • NE — for Nebraska
  • NV — for Nevada
  • NH — for New Hampshire
  • NJ — for New Jersey
  • NM — for New Mexico
  • NY — for New York
  • NC — for North Carolina
  • ND — for North Dakota
  • OH — this state is not abbreviated in text
  • OK — for Oklahoma
  • OR — for Oregon
  • PA — for Pennsylvania
  • RI — for Rhode Island
  • SC — for South Carolina
  • SD — for South Dakota
  • TN — for Tennessee
  • TX — this state is not abbreviated in text
  • UT — this state is not abbreviated in text
  • VT — for Vermont
  • VA — for Virginia
  • WA — for Washington
  • WV — for West Virginia
  • WI — for Wisconsin
  • WY — for Wyoming


Here are the correct spelling and capitalization rules for some common technological terms:

  • BlackBerry, BlackBerrys
  • download
  • eBay (use EBay when the word begins a sentence)
  • e-book
  • e-book reader
  • e-reader
  • email
  • cellphone
  • Facebook
  • Google, Googling, Googled
  • hashtag
  • IM (IMed, IMing; for first reference, use instant messenger)
  • internet
  • iPad, iPhone, iPod (use IPad, IPhone, or IPod when the word begins a sentence)
  • LinkedIn
  • microcontent
  • social media
  • smartphone
  • Twitter, tweet, tweeted, retweet
  • World Wide Web, website
  • webmaster
  • wi-fi
  • YouTube


As a noun, spell out “United States,” unless the design’s space is constrained.

The prime minister left for the United States yesterday.

As an adjective, use “U.S.” (no spaces).

A U.S. soldier was killed in Baghdad yesterday.