LOL and/or Lol! The Internet Has a Style Guide Now

Sort of. 
Cheezburger via anomalous4/Flickr

The Internet is, on top of everything else, a word generator of unparalleled proportions. As a platform for expression, the thing has provided us with an explosion of new terms—and, with them, new conundrums. There are the old classics ("Web" or "web"? "Wi-Fi" or "wifi"? "email" or "e-mail"?), but there are also the newer quandaries ("unfriend" or "un-friend"? "tweet" or "Tweet"? "LOL" or "lol" or "lolllllllllllllll"?). 

On the one hand, these need not be pressing problems; one of the joys of Internet writing is its freeing of the writer to find his or her unique style. So go ahead, fellow Internet user—make up some words! Abbreviate some existing ones! Portmanteau things up, winventively and tweeatively!

On the other hand, sometimes even the uniquest most unique quirkiest Internet writer wants some standardization. Sometimes you want some rules that aren't entirely diy DIY. Sometimes, personal style just wants some collective guidance. 

Should you seek that help, it is now here. Buzzfeed has published its Style Guide, a lengthy treatment of the phrases and names and acronyms that the site's writers use with regularity. And while it's an in-house manual made public (slash a smart publicity play, slash a de-facto declaration that Buzzfeed places itself in the company of the AP and The New York Times, slash "slash" instead of "/" is not, for the record, officially sanctioned by Buzzfeed's Style Guide) ... the document is also chock-full of answers about common Internet-term quandaries. And, Buzzfeed being Buzzfeed, it can also nicely double as an answer to some of the web's most pressing Style Conundrums. 

For example: According to BuzzGuide, it's "de-friend (not unfriend)." "Email," not "e-mail." "Username," not "user name." And "website / web / webpage." 

Possibly also relevant, should your writing require this: It's "side-eye," with a hyphen, but "sideboob," one word. (And "sidebutt.")

It's also "bro-down" and "bro-ing," and "First World problem," with two upper-cases and one lower-, and "Gchat," with a capital-G, and

bougie (adj.), bougiest (from bourgeoisie).

As for proper names? It's "Yahoo (no !)" and "Facebook (always capped, in any form)" and "Craigslist" and "Reddit (cap in running text), redditor (lowercase, for someone who uses Reddit)" and "Twitter / tweeting / tweets" and also "Twitterstorm."

It's also "Jay Z (no hyphen)," "J.Lo," and "Cee Lo Green."

And since we've veered into IRL territory, here is, for my money, the most useful advice the guide has to offer:

cheese: What’s capped and what’s not? Consult MW [Merriam-Webster], but here’s a list of some commonly referenced cheeses: Brie, cheddar, Comté, Feta, Fontina, Gruyère, Monterey Jack, mozzarella, Parmesan, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Romano

Helpful! Though I remain confused about whether to capitalize "gouda." 

Anyhow. Do with all this what you will—for non-Buzzfeed writers, these aren't rules so much as helpful pieces of advice. Follow them to the letter; ignore them; do what's in your heart, because that is what the Internet ultimately asks of us all. There are, it's worth noting, a couple instances in which Buzzfeed's guide lists exceptions to its own rules. Ad when are those to be deployed? In those cases, the document says, when following the original rule just "looks weird." 

Jump to comments
Presented by

Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What Do You See When You Look in the Mirror?

In a series of candid video interviews, women talk about self-image, self-judgement, and what it means to love their bodies

Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus


Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.


Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.


Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.


Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.


The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air



More in Technology

Just In