Editing Conventions

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…”

So wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson in his first series of essays (1841). When it comes to editing a journal, however, consistency is not at all foolish but essential, lest the writing seem chaotic and hence unreliable. Rather than make their own rules, authors from around the world must write (or be edited to write) in such a way as to seem part of the same linguistic discipline characteristic of the journal which is publishing their work. This makes the reading easiest, eliminating the need on the part of the reader to interpret or deal with trivial variations, alternative conventions and varying standards. Therefore we must establish and adhere to a set of conventions, even if arbitrary, for the sake of editorial consistency. Because these tiny components of writing do matter, we might instead adopt the proverb: “The devil is in the details”—since even the grandest project often depends upon the success of the smallest components—or, more positively, we might endorse the variation of this saying that is often attributed to the architect Le Corbusier:

“God is in the details.”

At The Mineralogical Record we like to produce a product of high visual and editorial craftsmanship, and that means paying a great deal of attention to details. We might not always succeed in our quest for perfection (always an elusive goal) but we give it our best shot, striving at all times for a good, consistent writing style in everything we publish. This makes our authors look good, too, and consequently they generally appreciate our efforts.

Good writing style may be learned from such standard references as Strunk and White’s Elements of Style and The Chicago Manual of Style. Nevertheless, certain usages and problems are peculiar to mineralogical writing, and others seem to be encountered especially frequently in such writings. We have accumulated a list over the years, never before published, of things we look for while editing. For the curious writer who might like to be forewarned about our preferences before we are forced to impose them, we offer the following collection of “official” Mineralogical Record preferences and policies.

Avoid most abbreviations

Abbreviations in general should be avoided. This makes the meaning unambiguous, the writing more elegant, and avoids the possibility of confusing the non-American portion of our readership who may not be familiar with many of our standard abbreviations. Therefore:

“(personal communication)” not “(pers. comm..)”
“Maricopa County” not “Maricopa Co.”
“Crystal” not “xl”

Avoid defining and introducing abbreviations

Avoid introducing abbreviations (even if well-defined) as an expedient short-hand notation for names and phrases. For example, do not utilize phrases such as: “Tri-State District (referred to hereafter as TSD)…” Instead, spell out the term fully each time it occurs.

Avoid abbreviating compass directions

Spell out all compass directions in a sentence, except for formal numerical measurements. Therefore:

“Located northwest of the fault…” not “Located NW of the fault…”
“Mountains to the north-northwest…” not “Mountains to the NNW…”
But “The fault strikes N20°W” is correct.

Abbreviating “Figure”

Our convention is to always spell out “Figure” and “Figures” in the text, except in a parenthetical phrase, in which case they are always abbreviated “Fig.” and “Figs.”

Abbreviating length units

Our convention is to spell out “kilometers” the first time it is used in an article, and then abbreviate it as “km” thereafter. “Centimeters” and “millimeters” are always abbreviated “cm” and “mm” unless preceded by an indefinite modifier such as “few” or “many.” “Meters,” “feet” and “inches” are always spelled out, never abbreviated.

“and” vs. “or”

Most minerals occur in more than one variation of color, habit, crystal form, etc., at the same locality. When listing these variations the writer should connect them with the word “and,” not “or.” “Or” begs the question: “Well, which is it?” The problem is that the writer (in using “or”) usually means to say that the variations mentioned do not both (or all) occur at the same time on the same specimen. If that is true, however, it should be spelled out more clearly, because not all such variations are mutually exclusive. Therefore:

…found as small colorless crystals and as thick smoky crystals. not
…found as small colorless crystals or as thick smoky crystals…

Avoid “all sizes”

Never refer to specimen coming unequivocally “in all sizes.” Do you mean to include sub-atomic size? Truck-size? Mountain-size? Planetary size? This common expression simply needs qualification; what is usually meant is that the specimens “come in all sizes from thumbnails to large cabinet size.”

Avoid the word “clear”:

In common parlance the word “clear” means both colorless and transparent. These, however, are two characteristics which, in a mineral description, should be addressed separately in order to avoid any possible misinterpretation. Occasionally the term “water-clear” is allowed because its usage is entrenched in mineral descriptions, and because it conjures up a pleasant and less ambiguous image (water is always assumed to be colorless unless otherwise specified). Therefore:

“Colorless and transparent crystals”  not  “clear crystals”

British spellings must be avoided:

We are not discriminating against our British brethren, but on the other hand we make no apology for being an American journal, so we must insist that, where British, Australian, Canadian, South African or other Anglophone variations in spelling exist, the American spelling is required, e. g.:

centimeter, not contimetre
meter, not metre
analyzed, not analysed
color, not colour
luster not lustre
mineralization not mineralisation
crystallization not crystallisation
catalog not catalogue
analog not analogue
traveled not travelled
focused not focussed
advertize not advertise
acknowledgments not acknowledgements
judgment not judgement

Ordering caption data

Captions for figures photographically depicting minerals specimens are standardized in format, and must contain data on at least six aspects as follows, and in the following order: (1) species name, (2) specimen type, (3) size, (4) locality, (5) specimen owner, and (6) photographer. “Specimen type” refers to whether the pictured and measured item is a crystal, a crystal cluster, a crystal or cluster on matrix, or a spherule. If the words “on matrix” precede the measurement, then the measurement applies to the size of the matrix; if it follows the measurement then the measurement refers to the size of the crystal, crystal cluster or spherule. We do not allow magnification factor (such as “20X”) because that will change with the resizing of the photo for publication. Where many crystals or spherules of different size are included, the size should read “to” and then give the size of the largest crystal or spherule visible. In any case, only the maximum dimension need be given for any crystal or specimen. Modifiers (such as “twinned” or “green”) can precede the species name. The specimen owner’s name should be given first, followed by “collection” if the specimen is from a private collection, and by “specimen” if the specimen is from dealer stock. Both the current owner and his supplier can be cited if desired (business names can be italicized for clarity). Then a semicolon follows, and the photographer’s name, followed by “photo.” Therefore we can have:

Figure 1. Twinned siegenite crystals to 3 mm on matrix, from Reynolds County, Missouri. Mineralogical Resources specimen, now in the Wendell Wilson collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

Figure 2. Red arsenian wulfenite crystals on matrix, 3 cm, from the Florence mine, Pima County, Arizona. Les Presmyk collection; Bob Jones photo.

Basic color terms

Werner specified eight fundamental color terms for use in describing mineral colors: white, gray, black, blue, green, yellow, red and brown. These terms, with appropriate modifiers, should be used instead of more exotic color terms that may not be widely recognized. Therefore:

Pale bluish purple not mauve
Dark greenish blue not teal
Pale brown not beige
Dull yellowish brown not khaki

NOTE: Avoid the term “flesh-colored,” as the interpretation of this description may vary depending upon the reader’s particular skin color.

The comma as decimal point

This European convention must be scrupulously avoided. Therefore:

a = 12.299 not a = 12,299

Optional commas

In our opinion, text reads most smoothly if the number of commas is held to an absolute grammatical minimum. The optional comma at the end of a series should not to be used unless there is a specific reason for it in order to avoid ambiguity. Therefore:

Red, white and blue not red, white, and blue

Comprised vs. composed

These two words have a directional component. Many separate parts “comprise” the whole, but the whole is “composed” of many separate parts. Therefore:

The orebody is composed [not “comprised”] of six different zones… Crystals of rhodochrosite, pyrite and quartz comprise [not “compose”] this great specimen…


The term “cuboctahedron” is preferred to “cubo-octahedron” (Glossary of Geology, 1997)

Plural polyhedrons

Being forced to choose, for the sake of consistency, we avoid the “-a” ending as a plural of crystal form designations. Therefore:

Octahedrons not Octahedra
Scalenohedrons not Scalenohedra
Tetrahedrons not Tetrahedra

Data vs. datum

Data is the plural form; datum is the singular form.

Decade apostrophe:

We had to choose, so we are going with the standard style manuals in avoiding the apostrophe when citing decades. Therefore:

1960s, not 1960’s

Avoid “decimeters” and “decameters”:

Common as these terms may be in Europe and the rest of the Metric World, they are not always familiar to Americans. Therefore:

several tens of centimeters, not several decimeters
several tens of meters, not several decameters

Diacritical marks

All foreign (non-English) diacritical marks in foreign words (crème de la crème), locality names (Potosí, Långban), minerals names (hübnerite, lòpezite) and author names (Žorž, Köhler) should be meticulously retained. Unlike the manual typewriters of years ago, modern word-processing programs such as Microsoft Word (our preferred format) have abundant foreign letters and diacritical marks available, so there is no longer any excuse for omitting them.

“Due to” and “because of”

“Due to” is an adjective which must modify a noun, not a verb. “Because of” is an adverb which modifies a verb, not a noun. Therefore:

“The mineralization is due to ground water infiltration” (modifies the noun “mineralization”) not “The mineralization is because of groundwater infiltration.”
“The mine closed because of falling metal prices,” not “The mine closed due to falling metal prices” (modifies “closed”)

Et al.

The expression “et al.” is the abbreviation for the Latin “et alia” (“and others”). Therefore, as a foreign expression, it must be italicized, and “al.” as an abbreviation must be followed by a period, but “et” is not an abbreviation and carries no period. Furthermore, inasmuch as “alia” is plural (“others”), the “others” must number at least two or more. Therefore, the reference “Jones et al. (1963)” can only be used if there are at least two other authors besides Jones. It cannot be used in place of “Jones and Smith (1963).”

“f” vs. “ph”

Modern American usage favors:

Sulfur not sulphur
Sulfide not sulphide
Sulfate not sulphate
Sulfosalt not sulphosalt

Felsic vs. Acidic

We prefer the petrological terms “felsic” and “mafic” to the older terms “acidic” and “basic.”

“Few” dimensions:

The words “few” and “many” cannot be followed by the abbreviation for a unit of measure. In such cases the unit must be spelled out. Therefore:

“a few millimeters.” not “a few mm.”

Use Fleischer formulas

There is more than one authority in the mineral world for the way in which mineral formulas are composed. Since we publish Fleischer’s Glossary of Mineral Species, that is the reference we prefer to use for the sake of consistency. Variations on the Fleischer formulas are permitted, provided that there is a specific analytical reason for introducing a variation. Therefore:

(Ce,La)2Al(SiO4)2(OH) not REE2Al(OH)[SiO4]2
These two examples are both formulas for the same mineral, törnebohmite-(Ce).

The color gray:

We had to choose one, just to be consistent, so we chose the more common:

gray, not grey

Use of group names

It is acceptable to use group names such as “tourmaline” in cases where the precise species name has not been determined. This is often preferrable to assuming that the species is the most common one, such as “elbaite.” Other examples of older species terms which are now group names include “apophyllite” and “apatite,” which can still be used to avoid unwarranted assumptions when the particular species have not been determined.

Hierarchy of headings

The first-order headings are all in bold capitals and left-justified: Normally these are INTRODUCTION, LOCATION AND ACCESS, HISTORY, GEOLOGY, MINERALS, CONCLUSIONS and REFERENCES.
The second-order headings, are upper-and-lower case, bold and left-justified. These usually include time periods under HISTORY and mineral species names under MINERALS.
Third-order headings are rarely needed, but if required they can be upper-and-lower case, bold, italic and centered. These are sometimes needed to subdivide the mineralogy section, “Skarn Minerals,” “Vein Minerals,” “ Primary Minerals,” “Secondary Minerals,” etc.

Avoid “high” specimens

It sounds ridiculous, when you think about it, to say that a specimen is “20 cm high.” It sounds too much like “at a height of 20 cm,” as if the specimen is floating 20 cm above the surface of the table. A better expression would be “20 cm in height.” In many cases no reference to height is necessary at all, and the specimen can be described simply as measuring 20 cm, or as being “20 cm in size.”


Honorifics such as “Dr.” and “Prof.” are not used with the author’s name, as shown just below the article title. In the text and especially in the Acknowledgments section, however, these honorifics may be used at the author’s discretion. “Mr.,” “Mrs.” and “Ms,” however, are never used.


“Hopefully” is an adverb, and should not be used in place of “We hope” or “It is to be hoped.” Therefore:

We collected hopefully not Hopefully we will find something

Avoid unnecessary hyphens

Where alternative terms are available, use the unhyphenated one. Therefore: aluminosilicate not silico-aluminous

Avoid hanging hyphens

In a series of hyphenated expressions characterized by the same subject word being modified in different ways, repeat the subject in each case rather than leaving an awkward open hyphen. Therefore:

Fine-grained to medium-grained… not Fine- to medium-grained…
Iron-rich and manganese-rich ore… not Iron- and manganese-rich ore…
Gold-containing and silver-containing… not Gold- and silver-containing…

Hyphenate substances modifying colors

Hyphenating substances cited as color modifiers helps to avoid any confusion as to whether any of those substances are actually present, especially inasmuch as many such modifiers are mineral names. Therefore:


-ish vs. the hyphen

Suffixes such as “-ish” take the place of a hyphen in compound color terms. Therefore:

reddish brown, not reddish-brown, but red-brown is still hyphenated
golden brown, not golden-brown, but gold-brown is still hyphenated

Hyphenating like components

Intensity and hue are two different aspects of coloration, so they cannot be hyphenated.

pale brown not pale-brown
but red-brown is hyphenated (red and brown both refer to hue)

The same rule applies to modified rock names. Only accessory minerals or rock names can be tied together by a hyphen. Therefore:

Quartz-biotite schist not biotite-schist
Granite-granodiorite intrusion is acceptable because both are rock names

The same rule applies to element modifiers. Therefore:

A large lead-zinc orebody…
A Cu-Pb-Ag sulfosalt…

Hyphenating measurements

An adjective involving a size measurement should be hyphenated when directly preceding its subject, but the same measurement separated by a verb from its subject is not hyphenated. Therefore both of the following are correct:

A 1-cm crystal
A crystal measuring 1 cm

Hyphenation vs. the slash

In most cases where the choice presents itself, a hyphen is better for connecting two similar components than a slash. Therefore:

January-February issue not January/February issue
…found in 2003-2004 not found in 2003/2004
…a scapolite-diopside matrix not …a scapolite/diopside matrix
BUT and/or is traditional and remains okay

Hyphenating compass directions

Two-component directions are not hyphenated. Three-component directions are. Therefore:

“Northwest” not “North-west”
“North-northwest” not “North northwest”

Imply vs. infer

The data may imply some conclusion but only a person can make an inference.

Inches and feet symbols

Do not use the quotation mark as a symbol for inches, or the apostrophe as a symbol for feet. Therefore:

3 feet 5 inches not 3′ 5″

The Japan Law:

The form of quartz twinning which has been named “the Japan Law” was so named because some of the first and best examples were described from that country. However, such twins can come from many other countries as well, so the word “Japanese” must be avoided relative to twinning because it means that the twin in question is actually from Japan, and in fact may be twinned on some other twin law. Therefore:

Japan-law twins not Japanese twins

Use of the word “light”:

To avoid any possible confusion with density connotations in mineral descriptions, we do not use the word “light” as a color descriptor. Instead the word “pale” is preferred. Therefore:

a hand specimen may “seem light” in terms of density
but must be described as “pale green” not “light green.”


Geologically useful terms for well-known mixtures such as “limonite,” “psilomelane,” “wad” and “gummite” can be used, and need not be placed in quotation marks. Usage should follow the definitions given in Glossary of Geology (published by the American Geological Institute).

What to call the literature list?

References = every entry cited in the text (we do not use “References Cited”)
Bibliography = every reference to the subject that could be found, whether or not cited in the text
Selected Bibliography = the most important references selected from a complete list, whether or not cited in the text
Annotated Bibliography = a bibliography wherein each entry is augmented by comments added by the author

Longwave and shortwave

These words are no longer hyphenated. Therefore:

“Longwave” and “shortwave,” not “long-wave” and “short-wave”

Metric vs. English units

This is an unfortunately messy issue which cannot be avoided. Some years ago a government-sponsored “metrification” program was initiated in the United States, to try to convert us from English to metric, but it failed—Americans were too attached to their historical system inherited from the original British colonists. And so, despite the fact that the entire rest of the world, and all of the scientific world, are solely on the metric system, we Americans and our British cousins remain on the English system and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. Therefore we must be egalitarian. We permit either English or metric units to be used in a given article as long as they are not mixed; the author must choose one or the other and be consistent. Unfortunately, however, there must be exceptions when the metric system is used:

  1. Miles (not kilometers) and feet in elevation (not meters) are to be cited when the locality, and thus the local maps, signage and car odometers, are in English units (i.e. are in Britain or America).
  2. Historical references citing measurements in English units are to be retained unconverted.
  3. Mine level designations in feet from the surface (e.g. “the 100-level adit”) are to be retained unconverted.

Micro is not a word

The expression “micro” is not really a word, but rather only an abbreviation for “microscopic” in common speech, or a component of words incorporating that concept. It cannot stand alone. Therefore:

micromounts not micros
microcrystals not micro crystals

Capitalization of Mine

We do not capitalize terms associated with proper names, such as “mine,” “pit,” “quarry,” “shaft,” etc. Therefore:

“Red Cloud mine,” not “Red Cloud Mine.”

Miller Index Bracket Rules:

Use the following guidelines for Miller index brackets:

(111) = Specific plane, face or twinning composition plane
[111] = Axis, direction, rotational twin axis
{111} = Symmetrically equivalent forms, faces, cleavage directions or twin law

Millimetric and centimetric

We do not use the (chiefly European) words “millimetric” and “centimetric,” meaning about 1 mm or 1 cm in size.

Numbers vs. numerals

Spell out numbers one through ten but use numerals for numbers 11 and higher. If, however, the number mentioned is a measurement rather than a counting integer, then always use numerals no matter how small. Therefore:

There were ten crystals measuring 1 to 2 mm each.

Often, frequently, sometimes

Strictly speaking, the words “often,” “frequently” and “sometimes” incorporate a time component. Therefore it is not correct to say that “the mineral is often blue,” because this suggests that individual crystals may change color, back and forth, of their own accord, at different times…sometimes appearing blue and other times appearing some other color. What the writer really means to say is “commonly” or “in some cases” or “typically”; these words carry no time component. This rule is difficult to enforce 100% because in a lengthy list of mineral descriptions such as commonly occurs in locality articles, the writing can become repetitive and cries out for some verbal variations.

Ordering of size parameters

Size parameters should be given in ascending order, from smallest to largest, as in “8 x 10 photos,” “2 x 4 boards,” and “4 x 5 film.” Therefore:

The specimen measures 2 x 5 x 17 cm not 17 x 5 x 2 cm


“Orebody” should be written as a single word. Therefore:

“Orebody” not “ore-body” or “ore body”

Outcrop vs. crop out

“Outcrop” is a noun. The correct verb form for what exposed rocks are “doing,” so to speak, is “crop out.” Therefore:

The rocks crop out along the river not The rocks outcrop along the river

Periods and commas go inside quotation marks:

…“…wulfenite.”  not  …”wulfenite”.
…typical “Muzo habit,” which  not …typical “Muzo habit”which…


Avoid personal pronouns referring to the writer.

Scientific writing should not be overly personal. This means that personal pronouns unnecessarily referring to the author should normally be written out by recasting the sentence. Therefore:

As mentioned not As I’ve said
He said not He told me

…with the following exception:

Avoid the third-person-passive form

“Third-person-passive” is the grammatical form in which the author somewhat stuffily refers to himself as “the author.” In cases where referring to himself is essential, this form should be avoided in favor of the more direct “I” or “me.” Similarly, when identifying the collection to which an illustrated or described specimen belongs, use “Jones collection,” where Jones is the author, rather than “author’s collection.” When indicating the work of only one out of two or more authors, use the “One of us (initials)…” construction. Therefore, we can have:

“I investigated the frequency of…” not “The author investigated the…”
“Jones collection” not “Author’s collection”
“One of us (RWK) visited the site…” not “One of the authors visited…”

Probe analysis

The formal name for this common analytical instrument is the “electron probe microanalyzer,” commonly referred to as the “electron microprobe” or, most informally, “the microprobe” or even just “the probe.” Informal usages should be avoided in scientific writing, therefore:

“electron probe microanalysis” not “electron microprobe analysis” or “microprobe analysis”

Redundant species/group terms

Though tempting, it is best to avoid compound constructions such as “grossular garnet” and “liddicoatite tourmaline.” Use the species name only, and have confidence that your readers will know that grossular is in the garnet group.

Reference titles

Book titles and journal titles must be fully spelled out (no abbreviated words). In book titles and journal titles, every major word is capitalized, however in article titles only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized.

St. vs. Ste.

In French, “saint” is masculine, whereas “sainte” is feminine, and the usage and corresponding abbreviation depend upon the gender of the saint in question. So, for localities in French-speaking countries, we have the following which are both correct:

Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec (since St. Hilaire was a man), and
Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, France (since Ste. Marie was a woman)

Alternate spellings

Periodically a writer will encounter cases where certain words or names (not species names) have more than one accepted spelling. How is this best handled? A simple method we often use is to take a “Google poll,” that is, enter each variation in a Google search of the Internet and compare how many hits each one gets. This will be a reflection of the trend in modern usage. Exeptions might include cases where a certain spelling is more common within the field of mineralogy, gemology or geology, or where a modernized spelling has been introduced that should supplant previously used spellings.

Descriptive tense

This is a subject which requires careful thought by the writer. It is tempting to describe specimens that were seen or collected or sold in the past as still being in the past, when in fact those specimens generally still exist today somewhere (unless it is known for certain that they have since been destroyed). Consequently nearly all specimen descriptions in articles and show reports should be given in the present tense, unless specific reference is being made to when they were found, displayed, sold or destroyed. This often results in sentences containing both past tense and present tense components, such as:

The show opened at 10 a.m., and Rob Lavinsky began selling Nigerian tourmaline crystals which are [not “were”] up to 10 cm in size. These were collected in 1980 and are [not “were”] in pristine condition. The best of these measured [past tense] 25 cm but was unfortunately dropped and broken during the show.

Ultraviolet light

Use the spelled out term:

“ultraviolet light,” not the abbreviation “UV” or “UV light.”

Varietal terms

Many collectors and authors have developed a historical attachment to certain varietal names for minerals, and they are reluctant to stop using them. Some of them are useful in concisely describing minerals with certain physical features, habits or colors. However, it must be remembered that most old varietal names have no scientific standing and no “official” definitions. They are historical relics, most of which should be discarded in favor of plain-spoken descriptive terms. Nevertheless, there is an “official” reference that provides definitions for the more common and useful varietal names: Glossary of Geology, published by the American Geological Instiute. If the variety is defined there, it is acceptable to use in articles. Therefore:

Transparent orthoclase or adularia
(or “adularian orthoclase,” a construction parallel to “amethystine quartz”)
Acicular cuprite or chalcotrichite
Platy albite or cleavelandite

We also allow the most common, entrenched gemological varietal names such as ruby, emerald, amethyst and aquamarine.

Vol. vs. vol.

There is no justification for capitalizing “vol.” or “no.” within a sentence. Therefore:

See vol. 1, no.2,” not “See Vol. 1, No.2” (or “Vol. 1, #2”)

The West and Westerners

The “West,” meaning the Western Hemisphere or the American West, is a geographical proper name and must be capitalized. Therefore:

“In the West,” and “the Western collector”

The “by” x

Our convention when citing specimen sizes has been to use a lower-case letter “x” (rather than a capital “X”) with a space on each side. Strictly speaking, however, it should really not be a letter x at all, but rather the mathematical symbol “×.” In the past this was not an issue simply because manual typewriter keyboards do not have a separate mathematical symbol, but today, with the universality of PC word processing, the correct symbol can be found and inserted. In the future we will be using the mathematical symbol, with a space on each side. Therefore:

5 × 7 cm not 5 X 7 cm or 5X7 cm or 5 x 7 cm or 5×7 cm


We use the numerals and only spell out the number when it begins a sentence. Therefore:

Mined in the 19th century… not Mined in the nineteenth century…
Twentieth-century collectors are… not 20th-century collectors are…