Literary journals uphold standards by following a style guide. Literary Mama uses The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) as its guide, though we do have our own in-house style guide for a few items. One of the standards we follow is to italicize book titles. That choice might seem inconsequential to you, but to someone like me, who has followed CMOS for years, it’s not. When I read articles that follow AP style, which uses quotation marks for titles, my eyes seem to itch.
What my eyes do not seem bothered by, however, are links in online articles. You know, the little hyperlink (see what I did there?) that might be added to articles so that you can jump to the related idea? Those links that might distract someone?
I don’t find them distracting, and let me explain about how I came to figure this out by taking you back a few days . . .
One of the recent discussions with the senior editorial team at Literary Mama has been how to treat book titles and links. For years, we actually did not italicize the title of a book on first mention (shudder . . . I do NOT know why the previous editors decided to institute that policy, but it bothered me to no end). Instead, we’d link on the first mention and italicize the title on any subsequent mentions. The consensus with the current team, though, is that we’d like to standardize the book titles: italicize them all on every mention (which, if you remember, follows CMOS).
The question became, then, what to do about linking? Of course we want to support the authors we’re writing about and mentioning, so a book link makes sense. But do we link to the book every time? (Note that in most articles, we don’t have too many book links or links to related articles.)
My suggestion at one point was to go ahead and link to the book any time it was mentioned so the reader didn’t have to scroll back up or down. Someone rightfully pointed out that by doing that, we’d be encouraging our readers to scroll away from Literary Mama. As a journal produced by a nonprofit with only volunteers at the helm, would we really want to take the focus away from the journal? Fair point. But someone else went on to point out that all those book links could be distracting.
That comment, my friends, stopped me cold. Distracting? Why would the links be distracting?
So I scrolled to an article that I knew we’d purposefully put in book links, and guess what? I couldn’t see them. Like my own site, Literary Mama is based in WordPress with a theme whose links show up as a simple color change. Apparently everyone else can see those little slight changes, and I cannot.
I know why: I’ve worn glasses since I was five, my left eye only corrects to 20/50, and I have cataracts that can be corrected “at any time and when you think they’re being disruptive to your life.” That correction might come sooner than I thought, now that I know I’m missing out on things.
What else have I been missing?