Editorial Standards and Guidelines
Updated Winter 2022
The Good Trade is the premier resource for people seeking to better care for themselves, their communities, and the planet. We offer smart and slow content, including trusted brand recommendations, thoughtful essays on intentional living, and resources for living more sustainably.
The following is our editorial style guide. Please use it as a resource when creating content for The Good Trade.
While our tone changes depending on topic or medium, The Good Trade’s voice remains constant across the web.
Our voice is smart, warm, and inclusive. It is also conversational and welcoming. Our readers are feminist and forward-thinking; they are looking for big and small ways to improve their lives and the lives of those around them.
Our writers often use anecdotes to introduce content, and we offer actionable tips and insights in each of our stories that readers can implement in their own lives. We foster connection and space for meaningful and urgent conversations, both online and in our communities.
Depending on the writing assignment and platform, our tone changes to fit the occasion. The most common tone shifts are as follows:
For brand guides and product roundups, we are authoritative, specific, and concise. We do the hard work for our readers by researching and delivering content about a company’s ethics and sustainability practices. When creating brand or product guides, refrain from redundant and vague language. Instead, be clear and comprehensive, using plain language to satisfy readers.
We often use the What? Why? How? model to cover essential topics. (What is fast fashion? Why is it problematic? How can we make a difference?)
Our researched pieces are smart, accurate, and digestible. We use straightforward language and expand on unfamiliar vocabulary and industry terms. Authors often include personal anecdotes to make these pieces more engaging and relatable. Most importantly, we seek to educate and empower.
When writing a thought piece, first consider your topic and the target audience. For a piece about sex, you may choose to be more direct in tone to help dispel cultural narratives. When writing about mental health, gentle and empathetic language is more appropriate.
When in doubt, employ a tone that is friendly, conversational, inclusive, and empathetic. Use active voice, and rely heavily on narrative to engage with and relate to readers.
Grammar & Style
At The Good Trade, we follow AP style with a few exceptions. Below are some of the most common grammar inquiries. When in doubt about style or punctuation, consult this free AP guide or check with your editor.
- Show possession. Example: Check out Patagonia’s spring collection.
- Create contractions. Example: We’re big fans of Patagonia’s spring collection.
- Do not use apostrophes in acronyms. Example: Persistent organic pollutants, or POPs…
- When possessive, “its” does not have an apostrophe. Example: Pact is renowned for its organic cotton.
- Use apostrophes when shortening years. Example: I was born in 1990. I’m a ‘90s child.
COMMAS, COLONS, AND SEMICOLONS
- We use the serial or Oxford comma. 🤓
- Generally, we only use colons for lists. If you want to get fancy, here are a few other ways to use colons.
- When writing a list, the first word after a colon is not capitalized. Example: There are three major concerns with fast fashion: sustainability, ethics, and garment longevity.
- Capitalize the first word after a colon only when it starts a new and complete sentence.
- Use semicolons to link two closely related, independent clauses. Example: Practice mindful eating; pay attention to how food tastes and feels on your tongue.
There are three types of compound words:
- Open Compounds: A word made up of two words, separated by a space. Examples: high school, peanut butter, real estate
- Hyphenated Compounds: A word made up of two or more words, separated by a hyphen. Examples: stay-at-home, mass-produced
- Closed Compounds: Two words that create one word. Examples: secondhand, nontoxic
- As a general rule, compounds with prefixes are closed words. Examples: email (not e-mail), coworker (not co-worker)
- Anti- words are closed unless followed by a root word starting with an “i” Example: antibacterial; anti-inflammatory
- Compound words formed by -ly adverbs are not hyphenated. Examples: sustainably made, ethically made
*when in doubt about hyphen usage, consult Merriam-Webster or your editor.
- We love and embrace humor and wit, but please choose originality in your writing and avoid clichés. Example: Better safe than sorry; in this day and age; blown away.
- For a list of every cliché, ever.
CLARITY & CONTRACTIONS
- Our readers prefer shorter sentences. These are easier to read, especially on mobile devices.
- Use periods more than commas. Insert semicolons sparingly.
- Shorten sentences with contractions. (I have had → I’ve had)
- Aim for tight writing with one thought per sentence.
- Use active voice more often than passive.
- Avoid weak descriptors (good, nice, fun) and nominalization (adjectives created from nouns/verbs). Example:
As conscious consumers, we should take into consideration the environmental impact of our purchases. (OK)
As conscious consumers, we should consider how our purchases impact the environment. (Better)
FILLER WORDS AND TAUTOLOGIES
While The Good Trade’s voice is conversational, please use filler words and tautologies sparingly.
- Some of the most common filler words: All, Actually, Basically, Eventually, Just, Maybe, Only, Really, Stuff, That, Things, Very, and 288 additional filler words.
- A tautology is redundancy in writing—i.e. two words in a sentence that express the same meaning. You don’t need both to convey the same truth.Examples: In my personal experience → In my experience; When creating your own wardrobe → When creating your wardrobe
NUMBERS AND SYMBOLS
- Write out numbers one through nine. Use numerals for 10 and greater.
- Exception: When starting a sentence with a number, always spell the number out.
- Use numerals for addresses, ages, monetary values, dates and times, size and dimensions, percents, speeds, temperatures.
- Use the percentage symbol in guide summaries, The Daily Good, and on social. Write out the word for thought pieces (10 percent).
- Hyphens are only for compound words and numbers. See compound section above.
- When using age as a descriptor, use hyphens. Example: My 10-year-old sister vs. When my sister was 10 years old.
- En dash (Alt/option): Used in product roundups and guides for price ranges ($20–$50).
- Em dash (Alt, shift/option): To create a pause in a sentence. Example: But—for sensitive people—words can hurt too.
QUOTES AND PARENTHESES
- Only use single quotations within quotes, or for titles within titles.
- Example: “I recommend reading ‘The Future We Choose’ for a fast and digestible read about climate change,” said Smith.
- Example: Our recent article, “No, You’re Not ‘Too Sensitive,’” offers self-care tips for sensitive people.
- Use double quotations around books and media.
- Per AP style, The Good Trade does not use italics unless for emphasis.
- Punctuation always goes inside quotation marks and parenthesis.
- A helpful reference: Quotation cheat sheet.
When citing external sources, we aim to offer the most current and credible expert opinions. Unless evergreen, sources and studies should be no more than five years old. Google Scholar is excellent for finding valid, current studies. We also have internal resources for quotes and expert opinions. Let your editor know if you need help obtaining sources.
When citing another publication, check that your source is original. For example, don’t link a NYT interview; link to the expert you’re quoting. If you find an article online, check for the source’s original source. We want to be referencing the original study, not a publication that has regurgitated content.
When directly quoting a source, please do not edit or alter for grammar or spelling in your submission. Your editor will handle this.
For all interviews, we ask that you include a copy of the transcript with your first draft.
Before submitting your first draft, please use this checklist to self-edit your writing. This will help minimize typos and line edits, and it will ensure your story shines—even on first read-through.
- Read your piece slowly and aloud. Look for spelling and grammar errors, incomplete sentences, and content gaps.
- Are you answering the original prompt? Does every sentence serve a purpose?
- Have you included actionable language and tips? Does your piece educate and empower?
- Double-check your links, sources, citations (where applicable), and the spelling of names and titles.
- Read your piece one more time. 😊
We ask that drafts are submitted in size 12 point Times New Roman or Arial via Google Docs. Please don’t format your piece unless instructed.
The Good Trade is dedicated to using inclusive, unbiased, and affirming language across all content platforms. In addition to adhering to the following guidelines, always triple-check a person’s pronouns. If you don’t know (and have no way of finding out), names or gender-neutral pronouns (they/them) suffice.
A few general rules:
- Men and women → Adults
- Boys and girls → Children
- Mothers (specifically in baby guides) → Parents
- Boyfriend/Husband, Girlfriend/Wife → Partner (unless a person has specified or it is authored content)
- Feminine hygiene products → menstrual/period products
When writing about race and ethnicity:
- Racial and ethnic groups are proper nouns and therefore capitalized
- BIPOC groups are not minorities. They are marginalized communities
- Be specific when identifying ethnicity and race (e.g., Black business owner, not BIPOC business owner)
- We do not hyphenate multiple racial or ethnic group names (e.g., Asian American, not Asian-American)
Words to Avoid
The Good Trade values inclusivity. We are committed to creating content that pushes back against harmful stereotypes and hurtful language. This includes but is not limited to writing that promotes racism, sexism, ableism, and ageism. It also includes problematic vocabulary. Please research the origin of an idiom before including it in your piece.
ADDICTION RELATED IDIOMS
- -aholic variations (Shopaholic, Workaholic)
- addict, binging, junkie, overdose (Try “book lover” or “marathoning Netflix“)
CULTURAL APPROPRIATION TERMS
- guru, native, ninja, spirit animal, tribe
PHYSICAL ABILITY RELATED IDIOMS
- blind, crutch, falling on deaf ears, handicapped, lame, paralyzed
MENTAL WELLNESS RELATED IDIOMS
- bipolar, crazy, dumb, insane, nuts
OTHER IDIOMS TO AVOID
- cult (as in “cult-classic”), ghetto, hysterical, spade (as in “calling a spade a spade”), nazi
Pitching The Good Trade
The Good Trade is dedicated to slow publishing and quality content, which means we are highly selective in the pitches we accept. We look for fresh takes and innovative approaches to thoughtful living—we are not looking for basic “how to” or “reasons why” posts. Because of the number of pitches we receive, we only respond to pitches and contributors we are interested in learning more about.
We love to hear from subject matter experts in health, sexuality & gender, and sustainability & climate. If you have a professional or editorial background in those subjects, email editorial [at] thegoodtrade dot com with “SME” in the subject line. Please include previously published work and a 3-4 sentence overview of your pitch. We do not commission on spec.
If you would like to pitch a story about a brand, founder, or Kickstarter launch, please visit our advertising page.