Ballet-Dance Magazine Style Guide
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Style and voice -- working as a team:
• BDm feels that the job of the editor is to make the writer’s voice come through as clearly and effectively as possible. The diversity of our readers and writers, who come from all walks of life and are interested in literally every form of dance, is one of our greatest strengths.
• Though many of our writers already write professionally, many do not. Therefore, though a review may be interesting, sometimes the prose needs an editor’s help to make it clear and understandable without losing its original character.
• The editors are entrusted with a sometimes difficult task – on the one hand to insure that the writing comes up to professional proficiency standards (i.e. free of major grammatical and punctuation errors and to conform to our “house style”) while on the other hand not altering the distinctive voice of its author (i.e. not to tinker too much with the writing). This challenge is the art of copy-editing.
• Though it’s impractical and undesirable to run every small change by the writer, every attempt should be made to run large changes by the writer. Remember, the review goes out under the writer’s name.
• Once editors get to know the preferences and style of the writer, editors may feel more comfortable making certain kinds of mutually understood changes.
• Editor’s notes to the reader in brackets: occasionally, it will be useful to add supplemental information, which should be indicated by italics and brackets.
e.g. “... resembles Leni Riefenstahl’s “Olympia” or “Triumph of the Will” [1930s Nazi propaganda films – ed.].
• Larger editorial issues
o Courtesy Rule. Writers are required to adhere to the Courtesy Rule.
o Proselytizing and propaganda. No.
o School performance reviews – as the Courtesy Rule requests, reviewers should be sensitive
to negative reports on students even if made with the best of intentions. Editors should
carefully look over reviews of student shows.
o Unsalvageable writing. Occasionally, a piece is simply hopeless. However, we don’t
necessarily want to give up hope on the writer. There are several possible courses depending
upon whether a published review is still expected (i.e. in exchange for press comps), the exact
nature of the problems, and the amount of time available to work on revisions. Please ask for
o Don’t hesitate to ask any one of the senior editors for advice or guidance.
Headline, byline, and dateline
• Use the official name of the performing organization rather than short versions.
e.g. New York City Ballet rather than City Ballet and Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company
rather than just Shobana Jeyasingh.
• Writers are urged to clearly indicate the date of performance and venue as specifically as possible. Editors may need to consult with the performing company’s website and/or the writer for clarification.
e.g. “March 26, 2005 – Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto” rather than
“on opening night at the Hummingbird” and Mariinsky Theatre rather than just Mariinsky.
• Names of venues can be shortened in the body of the review. No sense in repeating New York State Theatre a million times when the dateline has already established the State Theatre as the location.
• City names: specify the venue location specific enough so that the “average” reader can place it in a general sense.
e.g. Bytom, Poland rather than just Bytom, Upper Silesia, or Brooklyn, New York rather than
• Writer credit: use the writer’s given name whenever possible. Ballet-Dance Magazine believes that
for the sake of credibility, writers should stand by their reviews.
Names and titles
• Titles of dance works should be in double quotes, not italicized.
e.g. “Swan Lake” rather than ‘Swan Lake’ or Swan Lake.
• Titles of works should be the official name as released by the company.
e.g. Some choreographers specify “The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet” rather than just
“Romeo and Juliet.”
• Reviews should specify the full title for its first occurrence but may be shortened thereafter.
• Names of books, musical compositions and plays should also be in double quotes.
• Names of people
o The first time an artist’s name is used, the review should use both first and last name.
Subsequently, the review should just use last name. The exception is when there are siblings
in the same company or two dancers with the same last name – use first and last name where
there might be confusion.
o We discourage the use of either first names or familiar appellations except where clearly
e.g. George Balanchine or Balanchine rather than Mr. B.
• “Mr.,” “Ms.,” and “Mrs.” are discouraged as being of an antique style of writing.
• Writers are urged to double check name spelling, but sometimes editors must double check as
well. When in doubt, an official press release, official company website, or personal communication from the company’s press representative should be held as definitive. (However, be careful when it comes to translated press releases or websites from companies in non-English speaking countries – if the spelling looks odd or clashes with other sources, check with writer for clarification).
Mechanics: grammar, punctuation, and word choice.
For the credibility of the organization, good grammar, punctuation, and spelling should be adhered to. Even though readers may not be able to specify proofreading problems, such as improperly used commas and misplaced modifiers, these types of mistakes do contribute to an overall poor impression.
• American English vs. British English
o Both British and US spellings and terms are acceptable (programme vs. program) and the
writer’s choice of usage should be left as long as there’s consistency. If you are unsure about
a spelling or term/usage, just ask.
o Commas and quotation marks – commas inside quotes if the performance is in the Western
Hemisphere and commas outside quotes if the performance is in Europe. (We suggest that
jurisdiction follow the Treaty of Tordesillas Line.)
e.g. in America, the ballet is “Swan Lake,” while in London, it is “Swan Lake”.
o Americans do review in Europe and Brits occasionally migrate to America, so jurisdiction is not
o The main thing we want is consistency within an article.
• Common issues:
o “Its” versus “it’s.” The first is the gender neutral possessive pronoun and the second is the
contraction of “it is.”
o Complement vs. compliment. “Complement” means “to match” or “to complete” while the
second means “to give praise.”
o Principal vs. principle. Leading dancers in a company are principal dancers.
o Paragraph breaks
Since BDm is a web-based visual media, we encourage paragraph breaks even when not
grammatically necessary in order to ease eye strain (i.e. break up long paragraphs). All
we ask is that the paragraph breaks make some minimal kind of content based sense.
o Commas to separate elements in a series: the common practice in Britain is to use commas to
separate items in a series except for the final item whereas Americans are taught to put a final
comma before the conjunction “and” or “or.” Again, consistency is the rule.
e.g. In England, it’s always this, that and the other thing, while in New York, things tend
to run to bad, badder, and baddest.
o Connecting two independent clauses. To protect the sanity of the editors and writers, we’re
taking an inclusive, tolerant view of commas, semicolons, colons, and dashes to connect
independent clauses. Note - of the four connectors, commas are the least desirable for longer
sentences as they often yield “comma splices.”
• Present tense vs. past tense
Sorting out the most appropriate verb tense can be a challenge on occasion. Here are some
o Most reviews will be written in the simple past tense since the writer is reporting on a specific
performance in the past (e.g. “In the Act I pas de sept, the soloists looked confident”).
Exceptions occur particularly when the writer uses narratorial simple present or present
progressive tense for rhetorical effect to make the reader experience the action (e.g. “The
curtain rises and reveals a bare stage ...).
o Discussions of choreography are often in the present tense since the choreography exists
across time (e.g. In Ashton’s “Romeo and Juliet” the emphasis is on psychology).
o In English generally, tenses tend to be uniform within paragraphs (i.e. all present tense or past
• For question and answer format, the opening paragraph (if there is one) should be in italics, questions in bold and answers in regular format. Interviewer’s introductory or explanatory material should be in italics.
• Interview should include date(s) and location of interview.
• Editors should not edit any material directly quoted from an interviewee. If there any concerns about this material, a note should be made for the senior editor.
• All text not written by the author or spoken by an interviewee should be credited to the person/persons/organization who have the copyright. If you are unsure about any text, or find an un-attributed quote, ask the writer or contact one of the editors or make a note in the text.
• Because BDm is for a general readership, we encourage in-text citations rather than endnotes or footnotes.