Wednesday, May 5, 2010

That Thing You Say

THE Heroes in the Night STYLE GUIDE (Or The terms I use and why I use them)

Most publications of any size have a style guide. This is to present uniformity to the publication’s writing. Example- telling all writers to write 7AM as opposed to 7A.M., 7am, 7a.m., 7:00AM, 7 o’clock AM, etc.

I’m the only person working on this writing (although I am having some help editing) but I thought I would share with you my style guide and explain why I’ve decided to use some words over others.

And something important I should mention right now- I’m not trying to tell anyone what they should call themselves or the group they are in, or what terms they have to use.

I am simply sharing terminology I’ve picked for writing, so I don’t confuse readers with dozens of interchangeable words. It starts to be confusing if you start referring to multiple terms.

Read this sentence where I use interchangeable terms:
“Many real-life superheroes see the community as expanding, and some new costumed activists sign on and join the sub-culture every week.”

That makes it sound like there are two distinctly different groups, and that one is possibly a sub-culture of the other, when in fact I was talking about one general group of people in one general grouping. It is completely confusing to readers unfamiliar with this topic.

Here are some terms I’m using, and the definitions I’m using are from the Random House Webster’s Dictionary.

1. Real-life superheroes-(1st reference in blog post or chapter) or RLSH-(subsequent references)

I fully realize that not everyone I am talking to (or about) identifies as a RLSH. I’ve talked to people who prefer terms like “costumed activists,” “masked adventurers,” “ masks,” as well as a couple who call themselves “vigilantes.”
I explain in the intro that this is the case and in cases where someone has strongly identified as NOT being a RLSH, I make note of it in my first references to them.

2. Movement- Ohhhh boy. I know. I know not everyone views this as a movement, and at least one person is pretty vocal about campaigning against it.

The term “movement,” though, actually has a pretty loose definition, which is why I like it. It applies to a broad spectrum of things, there are art movements, political movements, and social movements.

Dictionary: (5. a group of people or organizations working toward or favoring a common goal.)

RLSH are a group of people, and are working toward (note the word toward, not necessarily together) or favoring a common goal in the broadest sense of the term- that goal being improving social conditions in their world.

The second definition of Community- (2. A group sharing common interests; the business community) works, yes, but when I hear the term I think more along the lines of the first definition- ( 1. a group of people who reside in a specific locality and share government.)

I understand it’s mostly online, community wise, but when I hear the term I think of a shire-like RLSH village with a Hero-Gear outlet store, a martial arts dojo, and a comic book store on Main Street.

The definition of Sub-Culture- (a group having social, economic, or other traits distinctive enough to distinguish it from others within the same culture or society.) also works, and I was close to using it instead of “movement” (and will be writing about traits that make RLSH a sub-culture) but there’s something I can’t quite place that put it in second place. Personal preference, I guess.

3. Now I will admit to being a bit stumped on what to call…those things you wear.

For example, the term Outfit (1. The gear for a particular task or role.)works, what I don’t like about it is that little kids have outfits- Li’l Susy looked cute in her Easter outfit. Strippers have outfits- Adult Susy looked hot in her sexy nurse outfit.

Attire (2. Clothes or apparel) works but sounds like what you’d wear to a dinner party.

(1. Clothing, esp. outerwear; garments) works but sounds like something you’d order out of an Abercrombie & Finch catalog.

I’ve heard some strong lobbying against the term Costume (1. The style of dress peculiar to a nation, historical period, etc. 2. The clothing of another period, place, etc. 3. An outfit; ensemble) and I can see why- to me that implies something you wear to a Halloween party, Mardi Gras, a comic convention, or ye olde ren faire. The third definition does fit, though.

I strongly disagree with the term Uniform (3. An identifying outfit worn by members of a given group) because by definition it suggests uniformity issued by a group, whether that group be the Army, Burger King, or the New York Knicks. And while what many RLSH wear is similar in idea, I think everyone would agree there is a large difference between what Death’s Head Moth and Laserskater wear.

So far, I’ve been juggling the first four words. I might with this method or settle on one or the other. What do you think?


Secret identities
- since day one, I’ve been very clear that I won’t be revealing anyone’s secret identities. Even if you are comfortable with the public knowing your identity and it’s easy to find on the internet (which is the case with some) it’s better for me to have a policy across the board- No secret identities.
There is nothing to gain from revealing anyone’s identities, and besides, a league of unknown everyday people is what drew me to the story in the first place. In cases where a secret identity is revealed in a quote, it will be edited out with a [SECRET IDENTITY DELETED]

Likewise, any details that have been requested to be removed because they may link to secret identity (make of car, street or even city of residence, any other facts) will be replaced with[DESCRIPTION DELETED]

- I don’t have a (expletive) problem with swearing. I (expletive) swear a (expletive) of a (expletive) lot sometimes. I believe that typing out the swear word often has a greater impact than replacing it with a (expletive).

For now I am replacing words like (expletive) and (expletive) on you and you stupid (expletive)head with the word expletive on this blog. This doesn't apply to the comments section. I don’t want to drive away potential readers with excessive obscenity, plus I think it gives things a comic book feel, @#%!

That may change with the print version. We’ll see.


  1. Regarding those things we wear,

    How about the term "gimmick"?

  2. Gimmick would be more than just the costume.

    It would include an overall theme, not just what you wear.

  3. I wear a costume as part of my gimmick.

  4. I call my Crossfire outfit my "super suit"

    (and I usually do my Frozone imitation when I finish saying it)

    Honeeeyy...where's my super suit!

  5. Hmmm...
    "Movement- Ohhhh boy. I know. I know not everyone views this as a movement, and at least one person is pretty vocal about campaigning against it."

    So there's actually an.. Anti-Movement Movement?

  6. I wear a gimmick as part of my costume.

  7. Gimmick is an interesting term. I think it works, but it kind of has a sideshow connotation in my mind...
    LADIES and GENTLEMAN step right up! Live on the internet! You'll see the AMAZING invisibility of Anonyman! Marvel at the MOON HEADED villain Calamity! Be BLINDED by the reflective qualities of the Silver Sentinel! Witness the SUPER SUIT of Crossfire the Crusader! And hear the EPIC smacking facepalm of the Computer King!

  8. I'd buy tickets. Just saying. SS can be rather amusing.

  9. And let's not forget the snappy dresser and incredible JACK OF ALL TRADES, Mr. Jack!

  10. As I discussed with Tea earlier on the phone, "costume" is probably the most debated term by far. I personally have no problems with the term. I understand people's "sounds like you're dressing up for Halloween" and "makes it sound like we're cosplayers" arguments. However, like it or not, a huge portion of this "movement" is comic book inspired. Those silly little outfits comic book superheroes wear are most commonly referred to as "costumes", so it makes sense that what we wear is also referred to that way. Also, much like the term "RLSH" or "real-life superhero", it is so commonly used by media and various people related to "the movement" that it is likely here to stay.

    My least favorite term is probably "uniform". I was in the army. I wore a uniform. What I wear as "The Watchman" is not a uniform.

    I also feel "community" works best in terms of groups of us online, but not as a whole. While I was opposed to the term "movement" due to the lacking of some of the criteria necessary to meet the complicated sociological definition of what makes a movement (although it is on its way), the realization set in that the term, similarly to "rlsh" and "costume" was also too widespread to be wiped from our collective vocabulary. Also, it seems, in my oppinion, a better choice than the alternative terms. I suppose "sub-cuture" fits, but it just doesn't sound right.

  11. I also want to point out that I've never been one to engage in petty squabbling over one's choice of terms. I can't believe the fighting that takes place over this subject. It's caused almost as many wars as religion, albeit within the realm of the internet. Use what ever terms you prefer. If you wish to refer to my attire as a fruit cake wrapper, so be it.

  12. I agree watchman. I'd love to have a list of the people who actually believe it matters what you call it.

    You know... devious purposes and all that.

  13. Well said Watchman. People get excessively wrapped up in the terminology. Who really gives a crap what you call it. What is really important is the good that one uses the costume/uniform/garb/gimmick/ fruit wrapper or whatever you call it for. Everything else is superfluous.

  14. That's it from now on I'm calling it a fruit wrapper! it works on SO many levels. Thank you Mr. Jingles!