New Orleans Style Guide for Editors

Snowball
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!

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