New Orleans Style Guide for Editors

Snowball photo by Megan Braden-Perry @megandoesnola.

Po’boy or po-boy? Snoball or snowball? Y’all or ya’ll? (That last one, y’all should know already. It just makes sense.)

Living in New Orleans offers about 100 million opportunities per day to correct someone’s spelling. As a copy editor for several local publications, I get paid to do it—but I’ve been party to a few disagreements about the correct spelling of NOLA-centric names.

So, recently, I’ve developed a New Orleans Style Guide for editors, and others in my shoes. It was the right thing to do, being a native and all.

Feel free to disagree with it, or tell me I’m ignorant or wrong or ill-informed—just don’t accuse me of being inconsistent.

Here we go, in no particular order:

  • po-boy. I’ve always been a fan of hyphenating this name for the world’s most delicious genre of sandwich. You’ll often see it spelled “po’boy,” “po’ boy,” or “poboy,” given its origin as a “poor boy” sandwich–but I think the hyphen gives the two words a nice, even weight. It’s how we say the word: PO-BOY (emphasizing both syllables).
  • yat. When used in a question, such as “Where y’at?” this lowercase term takes an apostrophe. However, to refer to native New Orleanians, capitalize and remove the apostrophe: Yat.
  • snowball. Despite what the various tractor-trailers around town may call these icy treats (“snoball,” “sno-ball,” “sno’ball”), I stand by its most sensible spelling.
  • go-cup. Don’t you dare call it a “geaux cup”. That’s just straight-up foolish.
  • N’awlins. No one says this. No one writes this. Do not say this. Do not even think it. The closest a real New Orleanian will come to pronouncing our city’s two names as one is “N’Orleans”.
  • shrimp. Not “prawns”. Similarly, if you ever change “crawfish” to “crayfish,” you should immediately move back from whence you came.
  • fa’ sho. I’ll allow a little leeway on this affirmative expression meaning “for sure”. “Fo’ sho” and “fasho” would also be acceptable.
  • yerdmeh? Sadly, this remarkable expression cannot go into print as rendered, since a copy editor’s entire job is to make text readable/understandable by a wide group of people (and other places outside of New Orleans do exist) . Change to “You heard me?”
  • Uptown. This neighborhood designation should be capitalized. But if you capitalize “Downtown,” you are the worst. I’m not sure why, but that’s okay–lots of stylebook rules have little to no reason behind them.

Should I think of any more outrageous transgressions, I’ll update this list. NOLA editors, feel free to add yours to the comments!

6 thoughts on “New Orleans Style Guide for Editors

  1. I agree with you. I capitalize Uptown when I’m referring to the neighborhood, but leave it lowercase “uptown” when talking about the direction, such as “Go uptown on Magazine, and then take a right on Napoleon.”

    I think your aversion to capitalizing downtown is because there really isn’t a “Downtown” neighborhood, right? It’s more often the CBD or the Warehouse District or something.

    What do you feel about the use of “trolley”? I always thought that anyone who calls a streetcar a trolley immediately identifies themselves as from out of town, but I’ve occasionally (but rarely) heard native locals use the word, and there is the Trolley Stop Cafe on St. Charles.

    • Oops, Henry, I just saw this! I tend to feel the same way about “trolley,” and think that cafe might have been opened by either a non-native or someone smartly capitalizing on tourists around Lee Circle.

      Re: Downtown capitalization, you got it! I’d much rather be precise.

  2. This is a great endeavor, and one that I think should be expanded upon. Once had this idea for a NOLA Orientation, that would be subsidized by a grant of one sort or another. In short, N.O.rientation would involve an open invitation for anyone who has moved to New Orleans in the last 3 months to hop on a party bus that would run a specific route once a month. The route would take them on a brief tour of NOLA neighborhoods, and at each stop, a local celebrity / personality would get on to introduce themselves and then explain things like “In New Orleans, we say ‘Where you stay?’ rather than, ‘What part of town do you live in?” Essentially, the point would be to maintain a process of conveying local tradition in the face of a rapidly growing culture, inundated with migrants from other cities (of which I am one). I believe I’ve worked hard (and continue to work hard) to understand and respect the city which I have adopted as my home, and I would have loved an opportunity such as this. I’ve met so many folks who would simply dismiss the massive influx of new arrivals as strangers in a strange land, but I believe the most important thing here is to maintain the traditions at stake, because at the end of the day, that’s what attracts us, whether we know it or not. On a less lofty note, have you seen this:

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