beachcombing magazine style guide

We love hearing from our readers. You bring us the very best stories from beaches around the world. Like many publications, in addition to our photography specifications, we also have a set of guidelines for our writers. Following are some issues that commonly appear in copy submitted to Beachcombing. We want your copy to have your voice but we do correct grammar and edit every article for clarity. Once you have finished your story, please step through this list to make sure it is ready for publication.

Spelling

  • Do a spell check before sending your copy to us. 
  • Use American spellings (and American terms) in articles, even if you live outside the U.S. For example:
    • use color not colour, favorite not favourite, flavor not flavour, center not centre, artifact not artefact, theater not theatre
    • use while not whilst and among not amongst
    • use boots not wellies, gasoline not petrol, diapers not nappies
    • use traveled/traveler/traveling not travelled/traveller/travelling

Commas

  • Use the serial (or Oxford) comma, putting a comma after each word in a series, including before the conjunction (and, or, as well as, etc.). Note the difference in these two sentences: I love my parents, Lady Gaga, and Humpty Dumpty. and I love my parents, Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty.
  • If you are using two or more adjectives to describe a noun, separate them with commas. Marbles are a colorful, coveted find.
  • Use a comma before and after too.
  • Use a comma before such as.
  • Use a comma before the word which in non-restrictive (non-essential) phrases. Jeff’s shell, which has a tiny crack, is in his office.
  • Use a comma between the introduction of a quote and the opening quotation mark. Susie said, “Green is my favorite color for sea glass.”
  • Use a comma instead of a period at the end of a quote and before the closing quotation mark. “Green is my favorite color for sea glass,” Susie said.
  • Periods and commas at the end of a quote are inside the closing quotation mark.

Spacing

  • Use one space between sentences, not two.

Italics

  • Use italics for the name of vessels but not the prefix. Horatio Hornblower sailed on the H.M.S. Indefatigable. Terry built a small model of the U.S.S. Voyager.
  • Scientific names of animals should be in italics. The first time you mention the animal, use the full name. Afterward, use the shortened version. Conus gloriamaris and C. gloriamaris

Capitalization

  • Capitalize nouns that are proper names, cities, countries, companies, religions, and political parties. Please don’t capitalize season names, common nouns, animal/shell names, etc. When in doubt, check online or in a dictionary.
  • While Middle Ages is capitalized, medieval is not.
  • The word century is not capitalized.
  • Capitalize the noun Internet but not the adjective internet. Al Gore invented the Internet. and My internet connection is slow.
  • Proper names of landmarks are often capitalized. Leadbetter Lighthouse not Leadbetter lighthouse and Headlands Beach State Park not Headlands beach state park.
  • Search online for the correct name of places like hotels, brands, parks, beaches, and more. Don’t use the local or shortened version used for a location if there is an official one. J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge not Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge.
  • Use lowercase for compass directions unless they are part of a formal name or widely known destination. Use East Coast, The Pacific Northwest, and Southern California but write southwest Florida, southern France, the east coast of the U.S.

Abbreviations

  • Use U.S. not US, U.K. not UK
  • Spell out the names of states, e.g., Pennsylvania not PA
  • Write World War II or the Second World War not WWII or WW2

Years

  • When writing out a year, you can use either BC and AD or BCE and CE
  • AD always precedes the year and BC/BCE/CE come after. AD 125 and 300 BC
  • Do not use an apostrophe for a plural. 1800s not 1800’s and 1950s not 1950’s

Numbers

  • Write out the numbers one to ten and use the figures/digits for numbers 11 and up.
  • If you are giving a measurement and are not using the imperial (American) system of measurements, please include both imperial and metric amounts. The shell was almost 30 centimeters (one foot) long.
  • Use the figures for centuries. 18th century not eighteenth century.
  • Put a comma after the day, date, and year in the middle of a sentence The event took place on Saturday, November 2, 2020, in Felton, California.

That vs. who

  • Who refers to people. That may refer to people, animals, groups, or things. Anya is the one who found the fossil. and This is the fossil that Anya found.

That vs. which

  • Use that for a clause that is essential and which for one that is non-defining. Talking about one particular shell: Jeff’s shell, which has a tiny crack, is in his office. Talking about one shell in a collection: Jeff’s shell that has a tiny crack is in his office. The others are in the living room.

Beachcombing-specific terms

  • Use two words for sea glass and beach glass.
  • Seashell is one word.
  • Beachcombing, beachcomber, and beachcomb are each one word.

Other 

  • Use an en dash (longer than a hyphen) in between a series of dates. July 4–5, 2022 and 1891–1865
  • Put all quotes in double quotes unless they are a quote inside another quote, in which case you should use single quotes.
  • Leave off the "www." on website addresses. 
  • You get one exclamation point per article. Choose wisely!

Read more about submitting your story and photos to Beachcombing magazine.

P.S. Got anything else to add? Find any errors on this page? Please let us know ›