Style Guide

Formatting

Quote exhibition titles. Italicize titles of art, and any series of art. The date of the work should follow the art title, in parentheses, if it is not mentioned in the copy.

The standout piece in "Luigi Shlobotnik: Sculptures" is Angst (1983), a self-portrait made from resin and cigar butts.

You may group dates together to avoid repetition: "Angst and Angst II (both 1983)."

The only inline formatting available is italics. Please do not put bolding or hyperlinks in your copy.

Spell out numbers when they can be written with one word ("seventeen") or one word and an article ("a hundred"). Write them in numeric form otherwise ("35," not "thirty-five").

The thousand-character limit includes the spaces. You monsters who insist on putting two of them between sentences are only hurting yourselves.

In most cases the correct order is punctuation-quote, not quote-punctuation. Logically this makes no sense, but that's what we do here in America.

The operative word for Shlobotnik's previous exhibition, "New to You," was "disdain."

Delicious Line uses a monospaced font, and it turns out that curled quotes and apostrophes look terrible in monospace. If it's not a huge hassle in your word processor, the editor would appreciate it if you turned off quote curling. Alternately you can try writing in a text editor. Franklin uses emacs, but he admits to being insane.

Image Credits

If you supply information about a particular image for the info box under the review, which is not required of you, the format is

Artist Name, Work Title, date, media, size, photo by Photographer Name [if necessary], courtesy of Presenter Name [or "the artist"], © Rights Holder [if required]

Typically:

Luigi Shlobotnik, Angst IV, 1983, mixed media, 36 x 48 x 12 inches, courtesy of Butterknife Contemporary

But sometimes:

Luigi Shlobotnik, Angst IV, 1983, mixed media, 36 x 48 x 12 inches, photo by Phyllis Photomaker, courtesy of Butterknife Contemporary, © the Estate of Luigi Shlobotnik and Its Team of Amazing Lawyers

Note the lack of quotes, italics, and periods, and that "inches" is spelled out.

Grammar

Semicolons are periods for cowards.

Names ending with "s" get an apostrophe-s on them when possessive: "Stuart Davis's paintings," not "Stuart Davis' paintings." This is an accommodation for spoken language and there are exceptions, such as "Degas' paintings."

Use the serial comma. Yes: "His work simultaneously recalls the old masters, Jerry Lewis, and Malcolm X." No: "His work simultaneously recalls the old masters, Jerry Lewis and Malcolm X."

Content

Aim your copy at an intelligent nonspecialist. Assume that he will look up a term he doesn't recognize or an artist's biography that he ought to know. Do not assume that he will bother trying to parse this opening from a recent essay in CAA's Art Journal:

The contemporary is now often theorized beyond the frame of history; seen as both irrepressibly transitive and uniquely itself, the concept runs the risk of losing its diachronic edge. The contemporary as fetishized space privileges, paradoxically, a transcendent temporality.

On a related note, write clearly.

We adhere to no particular school of art criticism, philosophy, or politics, and ask only that your review describe the art well enough to give the reader an idea of what it looks like. As a rule, you should describe at least one object in an opinionated way. Do so, in clear, grammatical prose, and you may make whatever other points you want.

Refrain from referring to other reviews or reviewers. We want pieces to stand on their own, and we cede interaction and dialogue, such as any might take place, to social media.

Avoid first-person plural and second-person singular. No: "We enter the gallery and are obliged to question our life choices." Double no: "Upon encountering Shlobotnik's Angst (1983) you first notice its repellent surface." First-person singular is acceptable, but we uphold an ancient journalistic custom never to begin a review with the pronoun "I."

Use active voice wherever possible. No: "The painting is pink with bits of green." Yes: "Green oblongs punctuate the painting's pink atmosphere." This can be a tall order since we're usually describing things, and thus what they are. Find a way, without sounding weird, and the editor will praise your name in song.

Avoid clichés, and watch out especially for the clichés of art writing. A work of art does not really "question" or "address" anything. It is often not "about" anything. Don't use perfectly good adjectives (ambient, contemporary, poetic, problematic, thematic, etc.) as arty nouns. "Sprawling" has been banned in conjunction with "exhibition" due to overuse.

The editor spends most of his editing time turning passive sentences into active ones, eliminating semicolons, and unduplicating words that the author has repeated, usually unconsciously, to poor effect. Save him a few steps if you can.