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

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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." 

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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.

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