14.2. Guidelines

To promote consistency between the myriad authors of the FreeBSD documentation, some guidelines have been drawn up for authors to follow.

Use American English Spelling

There are several variants of English, with different spellings for the same word. Where spellings differ, use the American English variant. color, not colour, rationalize, not rationalise, and so on.


The use of British English may be accepted in the case of a contributed article, however the spelling must be consistent within the whole document. The other documents such as books, web site, manual pages, etc. will have to use American English.

Do not use contractions

Do not use contractions. Always spell the phrase out in full. Don't use contractions is wrong.

Avoiding contractions makes for a more formal tone, is more precise, and is slightly easier for translators.

Use the serial comma

In a list of items within a paragraph, separate each item from the others with a comma. Separate the last item from the others with a comma and the word and.

For example:

This is a list of one, two and three items.

Is this a list of three items, one, two, and three, or a list of two items, one and two and three?

It is better to be explicit and include a serial comma:

This is a list of one, two, and three items.

Avoid redundant phrases

Do not use redundant phrases. In particular, the command, the file, and man command are often redundant.

For example, commands:

Wrong: Use the svn command to update sources.

Right: Use svn to update sources.


Wrong: … in the filename /etc/rc.local

Right: … in /etc/rc.local

Manual page references (the second example uses citerefentry with the &man.csh.1; entity):.

Wrong: See man csh for more information.

Right: See csh(1).

Two spaces between sentences

Always use two spaces between sentences, as it improves readability and eases use of tools such as Emacs.

A period and spaces followed by a capital letter does not always mark a new sentence, especially in names. Jordan K. Hubbard is a good example. It has a capital H following a period and a space, and is certainly not a new sentence.

For more information about writing style, see Elements of Style, by William Strunk.

All FreeBSD documents are available for download at https://download.freebsd.org/ftp/doc/

Questions that are not answered by the documentation may be sent to <freebsd-questions@FreeBSD.org>.
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