BuzzFeed style guide: Avoid ‘listicle’

Early last year, BuzzFeed released its style bible for public use.

Since then, BuzzFeed editors have added more than 100 entries to the guide as they work out how best to refer to the Internet’s growing lexicon. Here’s a list of my favorite additions:

  1. listicle: avoid, use “list” instead
    This entry appeared within days of the style guide’s public release, according to the Internet Archive. One of the words most often associated with BuzzFeed content by writers outside the company is discouraged by those within it.
  2. Disney Princess
    All caps, both words. This appears to be a more recent entry, added sometime in late December. If you’re going to tell readers which Disney Princess they are, you better keep your style consistent.
  3. celebricat (for a celebrity feline)
    celebridog (for a celebrity canine)
    If you have no idea what these famous Internet animals are, BuzzFeed will explain the phenomena, and tell you which one you most represent.
  4. GIF/GIF’d (as verb), GIFs, GIFable (pronounced “gif” with a hard G, NOT like the peanut butter, Jif)
    It stands to reason editors would have strong feelings about the right way to say this BuzzFeed staple. This entry appears to have existed in the original style guide, but it was updated to reflect the preferred pronunciation. A devastating blow for “soft g” adherents.
  5. millennials (generally avoid using this term when possible; use “twentysomethings,” “twenty- and thirtysomethings,” or “young adults,” depending on what’s most appropriate/accurate)
    This entry resists the oversimplification that you might find in news articles that use “millennials” as shorthand for “young-ish people who use smartphones.” It brings nuance to an overused stereotype.
  6. T. Swift
    The meteoric rise of Taylor Swift’s burgeoning pop career might have necessitated an entry for one of her many nicknames.

Taken as a whole, the complete list of added entries show BuzzFeed editors grappling with a wide variety of issues in their copy. They have new entries for vulgarities, gender classification and the proper way to refer to Muslim law.

Here’s the list of added terms:

1D (as an abbreviation for One Direction)

4chan (use a lowercase C, and avoid using it to start a sentence when possible)

4th of July

Abdu Rabu Mansur Hadi


Al Jazeera (not italicized)




blow job

body slam (n.); body-slam (v.)

bread crumbs (for the food); breadcrumbs (for the computer-y term)


bytes (measure digital storage capacity) — abbreviate kilobytes, megabytes, gigabytes terabytes, etc. when used with a figure, with no space between the abbreviation and the figure (e.g., my iPhone is 64GB, a 128GB storage capacity)

camel toe

celebricat (for a celebrity feline)

celebridog (for a celebrity canine)

checkmark (one word in all forms)





copyedit (verb)



Day-Glo (trademark, used for fluorescent materials or colors); dayglow (airglow seen during the day)

Disney Princess

Division One, Two, etc. (for sports references)

doxx (not dox)




facepalm (one word, all forms)

FaceTime (the Apple app), but face time (n.) in all other uses

freshman 15

George R.R. Martin

GIF/GIF’d (as verb), GIFs, GIFable (pronounced “gif” with a hard G, NOT like the peanut butter, Jif)

Girl Scout Cookie

girly (as a synonym for girlish); girlie (featuring scantily clad women)

gonna (not “gunna”)


guest star (n.), guest-star (v.)

hand job

hashtag (For clarity, cap separate words — i.e., #ThrowbackThursday — in running copy.)



hi-top fade

homeowner, homeownership

humankind (preferred over “mankind”)

Huthi rebels

iced coffee (not “ice coffee”)


ISIS (not ISIL) for militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria

IT (OK on first reference for “information technology”)

J.C. Penney




Kim Jong Un

Kim K (no period)

Kim Kardashian West (no hyphen)

koozie (for beer/alcoholic drinks)

ladies’ night

LARPer, LARPing (for Live-Action Role-Playing)

lil’ (for shorter form of “little”)

lip gloss / lip liner / lipstick

lip sync (n.); lip-synch (v.)

listicle: avoid, use “list” instead

listserv (no caps)


makeout (noun, the act of making out)

makeup (when referring to cosmetics)



men’s rights activists (no caps)

millennials (generally avoid using this term when possible; use “twentysomethings,” “twenty- and thirtysomethings,” or “young adults,” depending on what’s most appropriate/accurate)


‘n’ (when using in place of “and”)

National Airport or Washington National Airport: preferred over Reagan

National Airport

nip slip

nonprofit (as noun and adjective)


“O Canada” (for both the national anthem and expressions)

on-again, off-again

on demand (lowercase, unless part of a service’s official title)

Other, Otherness: Capitalize to indicate use of the term as a category, especially when discussing race (e.g., in this post, “I think people make a clear distinction that [Lupita Nyong’o] is this exotic, fetishized Other — and therefore not ‘black’ like the rest of us.”).

page 1, page 2, etc. (for references to book pages)

pet sitter, pet-sit, pet-sitting

photo shoot

pins, pinners (on Pinterest) are always lowercase



Prophet Muhammad

Quidditch (capped, as in the game on broomsticks)

quote-unquote (in speech)

Satan, satanic, satanism

SBD (silent but deadly)



selfie (refers to a photo taken only by someone in said photo)

Sharia (“Sharia” is defined as “Islamic law,” and therefore “Sharia law” is unnecessary/redundant when discussing the general framework of Islamic religious law; the term “Sharia law” should be used to refer to a code of government-implemented criminal and civil laws that are claimed to be derived from Islamic teachings or a provision of such a code.)

‘shippers (when referring to viewers who celebrate a fictional TV couple’s romantic arc)


shit talk (n.), shit-talk (v.)

shit ton


snowblowed (for past tense of snowblow)

SpongeBob SquarePants

Stanky Legg (for dance move — two g’s! )


tae kwon do


tase; tased; tasing (OK to use as a verb, contrary to AP)


the Gambia (not Gambia or The Gambia)

The One (as in destined romantic interest)

tl;dr (all lowercase, unless it starts a sentence, in which case, TL;DR)


T. Swift

two-buck Chuck

unfriend (not de-friend)

p front (adv.); up-front (adj.); upfronts (n., refers to the meeting held by television executives)

upvote/downvote (n. and v.)

V-Day is OK for Valentine’s Day, but use sparingly

“war on terror” on first reference, no quotation marks on subsequent references (same applies to similar phrases, e.g., “war on drugs”)

watch list

web comic

Weird Al Yankovic


writers room

Read more

What platishers, like Medium, mean for unknown writers

Early in November, Lauren Cusick, a former defense attorney, was listening to Serial. In one episode, a juror explained that a defendant’s choice not to testify contributed to a guilty verdict. In response, Cusick wrote a thoughtful, persuasive essay about a defendant’s invocation of Fifth Amendment rights and posted it on Medium.

Cusick, who now lives in Japan, has a personal blog, a Twitter account, and a Facebook page. She chose Medium, she said, because she had friends who used it to write about their areas of expertise and it seemed more professional than emotional outbursts on Facebook or Twitter’s noise. Plus, the barrier to entry was nil.

“I used their formatting tools, which were super easy,” she said. “It’s kind of nice to be able to able to use pull-quotes. It looked like a real magazine article.”

Submitting a story to Medium is quite simple. (Screenshot from Medium's site)

Submitting a story to Medium is quite simple. (Screenshot from Medium’s site)

Her essay was added to the “For the Love of Podcast” collection on Medium, and, as of early December, had generated nearly 1,700 views and 905 reads, according to Medium’s analytics. The read ratio – the percentage of people who read the article all the way through – was 54 percent.

Cusick’s piece may not have attracted a ton of attention, but such is the fate of most of the content published by unknown writers on platforms like Medium, Creatavist, Gawker’s Kinja, or Buzzfeed Community. The publisher gets free or low-cost content and the writer gets a content management system that lends their words a professional veneer.

Not all platishers have the same model, of course. The Atavist licenses its publishing platform, Creatavist, to paying customers. Legacy magazines like Esquire and online publications like Tablet use Creatavist to present stories in an immersive digital format without having to hire a Snow Crash-like team of developers. Gawker’s “Recruits” program” compensates select Kinja contributors and uses the platform as a talent source.

But except for better interfaces and the advanced sharing tools of social media, many of these platishers — the portmanteau of the publisher-platform hybrid – institutionalize a two-tiered system of content creators. The majority is content created by people like Cusick. They have something to say and no big outlet of their own, so they utilize the tools these platishers provide. That’s exactly what appealed to Cusick. “I wasn’t interested in going through everything you need to go through to publish those thoughts,” she said.

The “everything you need to do” is the familiar editorial structure: Pitch, report, write, revise. And the big difference between that approach and Cusick’s is that writers who work within the traditional framework are the ones who get paid.

Medium’s director of content, Kate Lee, contends that amateur writers are attracted to platforms like Medium because they look and work better than a Tumblr or a WordPress blog and offer the potential of a larger audience. “For a non-professional, they can write something and it really looks good. It doesn’t look amateur. It looks professional. That’s an appeal,” she said. “There’s a potential to reach an audience that might not be coming to their individual website.”

Creatavist serves both individuals and publications, but for now the onus is on users to promote their own work, co-founder Evan Ratliff said. “There are a lot of individuals using it you wouldn’t come across unless you were sort of specifically in their world and they link to something. For individuals, it’s more about: You can make the thing you want to make and then share it with everyone,” he explained.

“The kind of place where our platform lives is a place in which you can design things to be your own,” he said. “And that’s very conducive to all the news organizations, or non-profits, using it to do their highly-designed storytelling, because you can make something look really beautiful.”

Amateur writers who aspire to earn money for their work writing can use tools like Medium or Kinja to attract the attention of an editor – the kind that pays. Ratliff said good content – often utilizing original reporting  – still breaks through. “I’m amazed at the extent things get surfaced in my world from publications and places that I don’t know, I’ve never heard of,” he said. “When Ferguson happened, there became go-to people doing stories on that. And so, now I follow those people. That’s the kind of thing that I would say, “Oh, I wonder if we could get that person to do a longer piece,” sort of on that or something else.”

At Medium, Kate Lee recruits writers for Medium much the same way she sought clients as an agent. “I very much utilize the skills that I developed when I was an agent, which is spotting talents, working with writers, … identifying what’s happening, who would be appropriate to write something based on what’s happening in the news,” she said.

Assigned pieces come with a price tag. In a 2013 Medium post, Kate Lee wrote that some contributors were paid competitive rates and solicited pitches “from experienced professional magazine writers for reported features and investigative articles.” Paid assignments, at Medium, the Atavist, and elsewhere come not only with compensation, but with editorial and promotional services as well.

The open-access allows anyone to publish, but it doesn’t allow everyone to flourish. Certainly there are success stories, like Gawker’s “Fittish” site that came out of the Recruits program, or the Dinovember post on Medium that spawned a book deal. But the look and feel of an accessible platform that puts your words next to the pros has its own appeal.

“I could imagine using it again,” said Cusick of her experience with Medium. “I was very drawn to having an outlet. I do have a lot of opinions.”

Aileen Gallagher teaches magazine journalism at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications. Read more


Career Beat: Audrey Cooper named EIC of San Francisco Chronicle

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • Audrey Cooper is now editor-in-chief of the San Francisco Chronicle. Previously, she was managing editor there. (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • Ann Curry will develop a media startup funded by NBC Universal. Previously, she was a national and international correspondent at NBC News. (New York Times)
  • Steven Komarow has been named news director for Roll Call. Previously, he was an editor at Bloomberg. (PR Newswire)
  • Jason Zengerle is now a political correspondent at GQ. Previously, he was a senior editor at The New Republic. (Email)
  • Jennifer Henrichsen is a technology fellow at Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press. Previously, she was a research fellow at Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism. (Email)

Job of the day: BuzzFeed is looking for a Geeky Staff Writer. Get your résumés in! (BuzzFeed)

Send Ben your job moves: Read more


Career Beat: Joe Germuska named Knight Lab interim director

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • Joe Germuska will be interim director at the Knight Lab. Previously, he was director of software engineering there. (Knight Lab)
  • Millie Tran is now a writer for BuzzFeed’s news apps team. Previously, she was editorial coordinator at the American Press Institute. (Email)
  • Noah Kotch is senior editor and director of video at The Washington Post. Previously, he was chief content officer at Vocativ. (Washington Post)
  • Suzette Moyer will be a senior designer at The Washington Post. Previously, she was creative director of Bay magazine at the Tampa Bay Times. Carey Jordan will be a designer at The Washington Post. Previously, she was art director at Washington City Paper. (Washington Post)
  • Josef Reyes will be creative director at Foreign Policy. Currently, he is art director at Wired. Sean Naylor is now a senior reporter at Foreign Policy. Previously, he was a senior writer at Army Times. Amanda Silverman is a print story editor at Foreign Policy. Previously, she was deputy editor at The New Republic. Ilya Lozovsky is assistant editor for Democracy Lab at Foreign Policy. He has written for CNN’s Global Public Square. (Email)
  • Kurt Soller is now editor of the Etc. section at Bloomberg Businessweek. Previously, he was deputy editor there. (Email)
  • Karen McKay is a senior account director at Vox Media. Previously, she was national sales director for RealClearPolitics. (Email)
  • Cathy Horyn is now critic-at-large at The Cut. Previously, she was a fashion critic at The New York Times. (Email)
  • Colby Smith will be vice president for ABC News Digital. Previously, he was director of business development for ABC News Digital. (Email)

Job of the day: High Country News is looking for a reporter in Washington, D.C. Get your résumés in! (High Country News)

Send Ben your job moves: Read more


Why NPR didn’t publish the Charlie Hebdo cartoons

NPR | The Two-Way

NPR decided not to publish controversial cartoons from satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo because “posting just a few of the cover images” of the Prophet Muhammad “could be misleading,” standards editor Mark Memmott wrote Monday.

Publishing a few magazine covers, Memmott writes, might give readers the impression the magazine is “only a bit edgier” than similar publications. But a more thorough examination of the cartoons would violate “most news organizations’ standards regarding offensive material.”

At NPR, the policy on “potentially offensive language” applies to the images posted online as well. It begins by stating that “as a responsible broadcaster, NPR has always set a high bar on use of language that may be offensive to our audience.

In the aftermath of the shooting at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, news organizations have been divided over whether to publish cartoons from the magazines depicting Muhammad, whose likeness is sacrosanct among Muslims. BuzzFeed reported that several news organizations, including The Telegraph, The Associated Press and The New York Daily News, decided to censor the images in some way. Politico noted that the decision seemed to be split along the lines of old and new media, and Poynter’s Kristen Hare talked to news organizations that chose to publish the images. Read more


Career Beat: HuffPost adds three from The New Republic

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • Tiffani Lupenski is now news director for KGTV in San Diego. Previously, she was news director for KATU in Portland, Oregon. (Rick Gevers)
  • Greg Veis has joined The Huffington Post. Previously, he was an executive editor at The New Republic. Rachel Morris has joined The Huffington Post. Previously, she was an executive editor at The New Republic. Jonathan Cohn has joined The Huffington Post. Previously, he was a writer for The New Republic. (The New York Times)
  • Kevin Uhrmacher has joined The Washington Post’s graphics team. Previously, he was an intern at The Washington Post. John Muyskens will join the graphics team at The Washington Post. He is a graduate of Calvin College. (Washington Post)
  • Lee Glendinning is now head of news for Guardian U.S. He is deputy editor there. (Capital New York)
  • Susan Svrluga will anchor “grade point,” a higher education blog from The Washington Post. Previously, she covered Virginia’s outer suburbs. (Washington Post)
  • Minju Pak will be managing editor of T Magazine. Previously, she was copy chief of WSJ magazine. (New York Times)
  • Sasha Frere-Jones will be executive editor at Genius. Previously, he was pop music critic for The New Yorker. (New York Times)
  • Cap Watkins is now vice president of design at BuzzFeed. He has worked for Etsy, Amazon, and Formspring. (Fast Company)

Job of the day: The Dallas Morning News is looking for a city hall reporter. Get your résumés in! (Poynter)

Send Ben your job moves: Read more


How BuzzFeed added emojis to its CMS

In early November, BuzzFeed’s product team got a message from founding CEO Jonah Peretti. He had a request: Could the team add emojis — those ubiquitous little icons used to convey emotions — to the company’s content management system?

If the product team accomplished the task, it would mean staffers could use their computers’ built-in emoji keyboards to insert the cute symbols, offering a shortcut through the tedium of copying and pasting every time they wanted to use a smiley-face.

There was one problem. Tackling the project would require the team to have access to a full set of open-source icons, and the most common ones were proprietary — owned by companies like Apple, Android and Google. Peretti suggested the team use Twitter’s emoji set, and the next day Twitter announced it was open-sourcing its emojis.

“I suspect he’s a witch,” BuzzFeed editorial product lead Chris Tindal told Poynter, laughing. “It was like six hours later that Twitter posted on their blog saying, ‘we’re open sourcing emojis everywhere.’”

The team moved quickly, Tindal said. Within a month of Twitter’s announcement, they’d added emoji support to the CMS. To Tindal’s knowledge, BuzzFeed is the first such news publisher to do so for articles. Editors have been having fun with the new function, putting emojis in posts just as they would emails or text messages to friends.


BuzzFeed also created a style for where emojis should go — outside punctuation marks, not inside of them.


In addition to emoji support, BuzzFeed is experimenting with a CMS tweak that’s not as apparent from the outside. The product team has also built a redesigned mobile preview — which has so far been rolled out to a group of about 40 staffers — that requires editors to scroll past a mobile preview of a post before they see a desktop preview. The new feature is designed to force editors, who spend their days working on desktops, to have mobile presentation foremost in their minds.

“That’s a pretty major change, really emphasizing the importance of mobile and putting it front of mind with the design,” Tindal said.

The preview feature also helps editors troubleshoot posts that might not display well on mobile devices, Tindal said. When they’re about to publish a post with embedded content that the CMS doesn’t recognize, it texts them an error message and asks them to examine the content on their phone before publishing it.


“What we wanted to do with this was make sure that if an embed was mobile-friendly, that it would be displayed,” Tindal said. Read more


William Shatner’s cool with a BuzzFeed reporter using their conversation on a hoodie

I’m just going to get out of the way here.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 5.14.01 PM

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Melissa Segura named BuzzFeed’s first investigative fellow

BuzzFeed News announced Tuesday that Melissa Segura will be its first investigative fellow. Segura has reported at Sports Illustrated and since 2001, when she was a college intern.

“Melissa reports deeply and writes beautifully, and she produced magnificent stories for Sports Illustrated,” said Mark Schoofs, investigations and projects editor at BuzzFeed News, via email. “Now, she will get the chance to deploy her tremendous investigative talents into other subject areas. We can’t wait to share with our readers her new work.”

Melissa Segura, submitted photo

Melissa Segura, submitted photo

In October, BuzzFeed announced the one-year fellowship along with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism with the intention of bringing a more diverse pool of journalists into the investigative field. In an email, Segura wrote that she’s grateful to BuzzFeed News and Columbia for making a commitment to investigative journalism.

“This fellowship couldn’t have come at a better time for journalism. It’s no secret that newsrooms everywhere are scaling back on investigative work while BuzzFeed is deepening its commitment to telling difficult and complex stories,” she wrote. “It’s also no secret that the compositions of newsrooms staffs often don’t reflect the communities they cover. Recent unrest across the country, linked to the deaths of unarmed black men, has been a response to systematic marginalization and silencing of entire communities. I believe that journalism has an important role in helping to give voice to these communities and I also believe that reporters from diverse backgrounds bring crucial perspectives that ensure that we tell the whole truth.”

From her bio page on

As an undergraduate intern in 2001, her reporting helped reveal that Danny Almonte, star of the Little League World Series, was 14, two years older than the maximum age allowed in Little League. Segura has since covered a range of sports for SI, from baseball to mixed martial arts, with a keen eye on how the games we play affect the lives we lead.

In 2012, Segura wrote “The Other Half Of the Story,” looking at the women who have to care for former NFL players suffering from the long-term impact of concussions.

Earlier on Tuesday, BuzzFeed announced that Joshua Hersh was the new Michael Hastings Reporting Fellow. And on Monday, Schoofs wrote about BuzzFeed’s growing investigative team. Read more

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Career Beat: Kimberly Wyatt is news director for WEAR-TV

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • Kimberly Wyatt is now a news director at WEAR in Pensacola, Florida. Previously, she was news director for KGBT in Harlingen, Texas. (Rick Gevers)
  • Thomas Ghareeb is now vice president and controller of Hearst Magazines. Previously, he was assistant controller of budget and forecasting there. (Fishbowl NY)
  • Laura McGann is now political editor at Vox Media. Previously, she was deputy managing editor at Politico. (Fishbowl DC)
  • Sam Kirkland is joining BuzzFeed’s news apps team. Previously, he was a digital media fellow at Poynter (‏@samkirkla)
  • Perry Stein will be a local blogger for The Washington Post. She’s a staff writer and blogger for Washington City Paper. Sarah Pulliam Bailey will be a religion blogger and writer for The Washington Post. She is a national correspondent for Religion News Service in New York. (Washington Post)

Job of the day: BuzzFeed is looking for a humor writer. Get your résumés in! (Gary’s Guide)

Send Ben your job moves: Read more


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