A reader's guide to Clarion style and values
by Stephen Hewitt | Published
On the premise that a reader's understanding of a text depends also on their understanding of the context in which it was written, here is a guide to the values and style rules of this website.
New articles follow the rules below. Older articles follow some of them, to a greater or lesser degree, as these ideas have evolved during the history of this website.
The reader's time is valuable
The title and the first paragraph aim to show what the article is about, so that the reader can quickly decide its relevance.
Clarion is not aiming to be a newspaper, but articles of reporting preferably start with the “who what when where” of the traditional press report. Reports that do not focus on a single event might not start like this, but the first paragraph always aims to summarise the article.
For other kinds of article that are not reportage, the first paragraphs may be like the abstract of a science research paper.
The first paragraph is intended to make sense without prior knowledge of the website. Its assumed context should be general enough for people around the world and in diverse cultures to grasp.
Photographs, tables and diagrams always have captions. The caption is general enough that what the photograph, table or diagram contains can be understood in broad terms without reading the main text of the article. This might mean some information from the article is duplicated in a caption.
Use of the first person in reporting
In general a reporter can either adopt the stance of authorial omniscience like a novelist or reveal where the information has come from. This website prefers to reveal where information has come from.
The first person can be useful to indicate what a reporter saw and heard themselves but should be avoided where it does not help. Use of the first person is not synonymous with opinion or personal feelings, which should not appear in reporting. The intent is to use the first person while still following the traditional newspaper idea: “Keep yourself out of the story.”
Every image has a caption stating what it is. This should usually include the date and location. Since every reporting photograph must have been taken in a certain place and at a certain time, it should be explicitly labelled with this important “where” and “when” information. The location and time do not have to be more exact than appropriate and can be omitted one some kinds of photographs where they are not relevant. For example for a photograph of bacteria through a microscope the location of the microscope is probably not relevant.
In addition to the traditional names, a location is preferably also identified with geographical coordinates of latitude and longitude. Motivations include that these can be understood internationally and enable a location to be found easily on an online map. The site will link to Open Street Map. Latitude and longitude are expressed as decimal numbers.
For locations in Britain the British postcode is a potentially useful addition because it is short and it also enables rapid location on an online map.
Each photograph which is not by the author of the article has an attribution in its caption. The website does not carry photographs of unknown provenance or untrusted source.
In HTML the “figure” and “figcaption” elements are always used. (The meaning of this HTML construct is to associate the image with the caption.)
All articles have a prominent date of publication and a date of the last editorial change, if any.
Clarion reporting articles differ fundamentally from newspaper reports in their time perspective. The implied context of a newspaper report is contemporaneous with the events reported but the implied context of a Clarion report is that of a history book looking back. The preferred perspective is from an indeterminate point in time after the events reported.
In particular this means:
- Unlike a newspaper, a report does not use the present tense for the recent past, regardless of how recent
- A report does not use words like “yesterday” but always a full date.
This preferred detached writing date is not always easy and sometimes not possible. Like the first person intruding and removing omniscience, sometimes an explicit date of writing has to intrude to reveal the limitations of the writer's viewpoint in time.
One example of such cases are continuous actions or states of affairs that started in the past and are still continuing at the point of writing, but that might not continue forever. For example, consider an article that starts “Since 2012 in the UK it has been possible in some cases to donate a particular sum to charity in a will with the effect that the charity receives over four times as much”...
Constructions like “Since 2012 it has been” mean that it is still the case at the point of writing. The writing date is implicated in the story. In such a case adding a “last modified” date has the potential to confuse the reader and subvert the meaning of the article. Adding it means there are now two writing dates.
In order to partially mitigate this, the convention on this website is that anything implied to be on-going at the date of writing, must also be on-going at any “last modified” date. Modifying such an article for any reason potentially requires new research to check this.
Articles that are not reporting might not adopt the perspective of the indeterminate writing date.
The date of editorial change is not synonymous with the date the HTML file was last modified. The HTML file can be modified without changing the article. A common reason on this website is an addition to the ‘Related Articles’ section. This section is not considered part of the article itself.
Cryptographic hashes of references
In 2022, evidence of knowledge of cryptographic hash functions spreading beyond specialists in fields like computer science and cryptography is on the website of a US American law firm. It has a page with the title “Cryptographic Hash Functions: A Historical Overview”. (https://freemanlaw.com/cryptographic-hash-functions/ )
On this website, references to third party articles in PDF files will include a cryptographic hash of that file. The motivation is that if the reader can obtain a file with an identical hash, they can be sure that it is the same article that the author was referring to.
(The converse is not necessarily true though. It is possible for the hash not to match even though an article is editorially identical. Possible reasons include formatting differences.)
On Windows a SHA256 hash can be determined using the command prompt as in the following example.
C:\Users\clarion\Downloads>certutil -hashfile N15-1180.pdf SHA256 SHA256 hash of N15-1180.pdf: f0e091f445a4f777b123d56153cf149552e51424493ddf276378a709cbf5d79c CertUtil: -hashfile command completed successfully. C:\Users\clarion\Downloads>
Cryptographic hashes of embedded images
Pages generated or regenerated since May 2022 contain the cryptographic hash of any embedded image. The hash used for this is RIPEMD160.
These hashes are contained in an HTML comment. For example:
<!-- RIPEMD160(/carbon.demonstrators.blocking.jpg) = 5757206ae0efd122fc0ea6ed03762d88860a05a7 --> <img itemprop="url" src="/carbon.demonstrators.blocking.jpg" height="479" width="800" alt=""/> ...
External links are written as a web address
In general external links should be visible in the text as a web address or URL and not hidden under “anchor text”. Exceptions are the links in the ‘External links’ section at the bottom of each page.
This is a new policy in 2022 and older articles did not follow it.
Other website rules
Web pages should not be moved except where unavoidable. This rule has priority over any other convention of this website.
Short URLs are strongly preferred. The intent is to make them easy to remember and type. Since 2018 new articles have been allocated numeric file names starting at 1.html and counting up, and located in the top level. In general the URL should not depend on what the web page says, although it might depend somewhat on its subject. The idea of making the file name the same as the title is explicitly rejected.
Web page file names should have a suffix to indicate the file type. In particular HTML is .html, PDF is .pdf and plain text is .txt
The website has a “same origin” policy. It does not ask a web browser fetch anything at all from a different domain.
Publish the style and values guide
Some websites have a style guide that they do not publish. But if the writer is committed to certain conventions, then it is better for the reader that the commitment is public, so they can then rely on those conventions and without having to guess what they might be.