Guidelines for Potential Contributors

 

If you're thinking of contributing new or replacement material for the alt-usage-english.org site, this page is specially for you. Please don't be daunted by the length of this page. All contributions are welcome. The information on this page is for your benefit, and if it doesn't seem to apply to you, it probably doesn't apply to you, and can safely be ignored.

Site standards

The construction of the site follows a few principles that are designed to make it simple and rewarding for the site visitor, and to fit with the various tools and procedures that I, the webmaster, employ in order to make it all work properly. These I call the "Site standards". They are the "rules" that I follow when making changes to the site. They are not, repeat not, the rules that I expect others to abide by when contributing new material. My job when receiving new material is to adapt that material as needed to conform to the site standards, or (should there be good reason to do so) to modify the standards to accommodate the new material. Obviously the easier you make my job, the better, but there are no hard-and-fast rules.

Content vs. presentation

I should make it clear that I'm talking on this page primarily about the presentation of the material, not its content. I'm assuming that you don't need to be told that the material should be relevant, truthful, etc. And of course written in good English, however we might define that. It can be American English, British English, Australian English, or whatever English you speak. See further information on the Contact page.

Submission methods

Submit material by e-mail to the webmaster, either in the body of your message or as an enclosure (send as many enclosures as you like in one message). The enclosure must be a text file or a ZIP file containing text files. I probably can't read the native format of your word processor, so if you use a word-processor be sure to save your work as text if you're planning to send it to me.

Alternatively you could send me the URL of a file that I can retrieve using HTTP or FTP.

Plain text or HTML?

HTML is the "language" used to format material for display on a web page, and contains instructions for layout, graphics, links, and effects such as bold and italic. Some contributors will be knowledgeable about HTML and will prefer to format their pages to their taste before submitting them to me in HTML format. Others will be happy just to send me the text.

Plain text is acceptable for small-to-moderate amounts of material. I'm happy to add the formatting and other codes to turn that text into HTML for display on a page. Examples of pages that I have converted in this way are Don Aitken's What is the UK? Is it the same as Britain, Great Britain or England? and Donna Richoux's Humorous Rules for Writing ("Fumblerules," "Perverse Rules," etc). Please include instructions on how you'd like things formatted if you think that's appropriate (you'll get to see a draft before the page appears on the site anyway). Normally I'll render text in *asterisks* as bold and _underscores_ as italic. If you know a little HTML and would like to slide in a few tags such as <b> and <i>, that's good.

If you'd like to submit one or more pages in HTML, things start to get a little more complicated. That's what the bulk of this page is all about.

Replacing an existing page

If you're proposing to completely replace a page on the site, bear in mind these aspects of site policy:

  • The new page will have the same file name as the old page. The reason is to avoid breaking links from other sites, and users' bookmarks.
  • Useful material on the page being replaced must be preserved. Think very carefully about whether you're eliminating anything that might be of benefit, especially if it's the work of someone else. Obviously if there's somewhere more appropriate on the aue site to put it, that's no problem.

HTML standards

If you're sending me an HTML page, you need to be aware that I'll be adapting your work for use on the site. The amount I need to do will vary according to how far your page differs from the all the other pages on the site. In this section I describe the standards I adhere to, so that you're in a position to make your page as close to the standard as you want. Making your page close to the standard means that I'll have less work to do and you'll have a better idea of what your page will look like when it appears on the site. You don't have to do anything, of course, because I'm quite prepared to do all the work. But a brief perusal of the contents of the rest of this section will help to ensure that your work is at least compatible with the standard, avoiding problems later on. As you'll soon see, the site style is very conservative.

When navigating this site you will no doubt have noticed certain common features. The exact details will vary according to what browser you're using and the settings you have in effect, but the sort of things I'm talking about are the page layout, colours, fonts, etc. Read about these features on page The "new look". The features come from a template and associated files that I use for every page on the site. They are as follows:

Templates/aue3.dwt Template file (see further information below)
aue.css Style sheet
aue_logo_sidebar.jpg AUE logo for the top of the navigation bar
valid-html40.gif W3C logo for the bottom of the navigation bar
vcss.gif W3C logo for the bottom of the navigation bar

You're welcome to make copies of these files for your own use when creating a page for the aue site.

Although the template file has a "dwt" extension it is in fact normal HTML. If you use Dreamweaver for HTML editing you will be able to make direct use of this file. Otherwise you just need to note the sections between pairs of HTML comments like this:

<!-- #BeginEditable "Name" -->Stuff<!-- #EndEditable -->

These comments indicate a section of the file that varies from page to page – the variable content replaces "Stuff". Parts of the file outside of the BeginEditable...EndEditable sections are the same for every page on the site, without exception. The "Name"s of the variable sections are:

Header Stuff Contains the window title (in the title bar of the browser window), typically <title>AUE: Titletext</title>. Sometimes also contains other header elements such as style settings particular to the page concerned.
Heading The page heading (on the khaki bar), normally consisting of something like <h1>Titletext</h1><div class="subh1">by Author</div>.
Contents The body text of the page. This is automatically constrained in width by the style sheet.
Contents (special) An alternative location for the body text if it really needs to be unconstrained. I use either "Contents" or "Contents (special)" on a page, leaving the other section empty.

The Contents (or Contents (special)) section contains the text of the page. Some guidelines I abide by are shown in this list:

  • There are no garish colour schemes, animated graphics, marquees, scrolling text, blinking text, or background sounds.
  • There's no JavaScript, active content, or anything that requires a browser plug-in.
  • There are no frames, no pop-up windows, and no cookies.
  • There's no commercial material.
  • CGIs are used only where required for dynamic content (if you're contemplating submitting anything that would require a CGI, please contact me for advice).
  • The font faces are: "Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" for sans-serif; "Lucida Sans Typewriter, Courier New, Courier, mono" for monospaced, otherwise the browser default font.
  • There are no absolute dimensions (points, pixels, centimetres, inches, etc) for fonts, tables, or anything else, except for graphics (see next point).
  • Graphics files are .gif or .jpg only. I always use the width= and height= attributes to indicate the actual size of the image.
  • I don't abuse "&nbsp;" by using it for positioning text.
  • E-mail addresses for personal contact are included wherever appropriate.
  • E-mail addresses are diguised from spammers. See, for example, the link in the Submission methods paragraph near the top of this page.
  • Every page is spell-checked and every link is checked.
  • HTML is validated by obtaining a "No errors found!" from the W3C Validation Service.

Because I'm not the originator of most of the material on the site, it's quite possible that some of my pages don't meet my own standards. If you discover any such page, I'd be very pleased to hear about it. But don't tell me about anything in UCLE Corner pages (URL: http://alt-usage-english.org/ucle/...), because I leave those alone.