Writing


The Various Types of Title Case

3rd March 2021

As you may or not know, I'm the developer of Text Case, a text-transformation utility app for iOS and macOS. The app now supports tons of various pre-defined transformations and allows the creation of custom transformations, however, the app was originally based around one format, title case.

As the name suggests, title case refers to the capitalisation of text that is to be used as a title. But it's not something that has an objective set of rules. Instead, it's more of a rule that's based around personal style choices.

The most popular title case standards I've heard of are AP (Associated Press), APA (American Psychological Association), and CMOS (Chicago Manual of Style), but there are countless more.

And including the next planned release for Text Case, it will support a total of 9 different title case variations. Some are quite similar, however, as people like to stick to certain standards, I think it's important that there's a lot of options in the app. And since I've had a few questions in theist asking what the difference is, I thought I'd write a post to explain the implemented rules.

Please note, the implemented formats aren't carbon copies of the official standards, as some of the rules aren't exactly feasible to build into an automated tool. For example, a few standards have the rule to keep the second part of a Latin species name lowercase, and AMA seems to have a few rules based around greek letters.

But from the perspective of Text Case, here is how each of them is implemented:

American Medical Association (AMA)

  • Capitalise first and last word.
  • Capitalise major words.
  • Do not capitalise coordinating conjunctions (and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet).
  • Do not capitalise articles (a, an, the)
  • Do not capitalise prepositions of three or fewer letters.

Associated Press (AP)

  • Capitalise first and last word.
  • Capitalise major words.
  • Capitalise all words of four letters or more.
  • Do not capitalise articles, conjunctions, or prepositions of three or fewer letters.

American Psychological Association (AP)

  • Capitalise first and last word.
  • Capitalise the first word after a colon.
  • Capitalise nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and pronouns.
  • Capitalise all words of four letters or more.
  • Do not capitalise articles, conjunctions, or prepositions of three or fewer letters.
  • Capitalise the second part of hyphenated major words.

Bluebook

  • Capitalise first and last word.
  • Capitalise the first word after a colon.
  • Capitalise all words except articles, conjunctions, or prepositions of four letters or fewer.

Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS)

  • Capitalise first and last word.
  • Capitalise nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.
  • Capitalise all conjunctions except coordinating conjunctions.
  • Do not capitalise articles of prepositions.
  • Do not capitalise "as" in any grammatical function.

Guardian

  • Capitalise all words except for "a", "an", "and", "at", "for", "from", "in", "of", "on", "the", "to”.
  • Capitalise the first word after a colon.

Modern Language Association (MLA)

  • Capitalise first and last word.
  • Capitalise nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and subordinating conjunctions.
  • Do not capitalise articles, prepositions, and coordinating conjunctions.
  • Capitalise the first word after a colon.

New York Times

  • Capitalise nouns, pronouns, and verbs.
  • Capitalise all words of four or more letters.
  • Capitalise "no", "nor", "not", "off", "out", "so", and "up".
  • Do not capitalise "a", "and", "as", "at", "but", "by", "en", "for", "if", "in", "of", "on", "or", "the", "to", "v.", "vs.", and "via".

Wikipedia

  • Capitalise first and last word.
  • Capitalise verbs, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, and subordinating conjunctions.
  • capitalise prepositions of five letters or more.
  • Do not capitalise articles, prepositions of four letters or fewer, and coordinating conjunctions.

Hopefully this has answered some questions that people have regarding the different title case variants. But if you have any more, then I'd be very willing to hear them. And if you spot something that isn't right, then please let me know!

Ghost on the iPad, a Review →

25th February 2021

Jeff Perry on the Ghost blogging platform, and his experiences using it on an iPad:

Aside from moving Tablet Habit to a newsletter format, I also moved the entire website from WordPress hosting on EasyWP to Ghost. As an iOS user, I was worried Ghost would be an inferior product on the iPad and iPhone compared to the desktop. I am pleased to say my worry was for nothing.

I wanted to share my perspective on using Ghost on the iPad and how I think Ghost can improve this going forward.

— Jeff Perry, Ghost on the iPad, a Review

I use Ghost to host this blog and my newsletter, so it's good to see someone else enjoying it. Jeff's experience seems to match up with mine, it's a great service, but it can still be improved in a few ways like he mentions.

One of the big reasons why I think I'll stick with Ghost is the member/newsletter support. Without that integration, I could imagine switching back to WordPress in the future. But for now, everything seems pretty good here.

My Experience With Werdsmith

22nd February 2021

As part of my challenge to find my ideal writing app, I turned to Werdsmith to see if it could handle my writing needs.

Werdsmith piqued my interest with claims about it being your “personal, portable writers studio”, it’s multiple themes, and “formats for every writer”. Initially, it seemed like it would be an app only for people like screenwriters, but I thought I’d give it a go anyway.

Sadly I was at least partially correct, it does indeed feel that Werdsmith is designed for a certain type of writer, and one that doesn’t seem to include myself.

Organising Your Writing

The first part of Werdsmith that made me think that the app wasn’t for me was the very simple document organisation.

There are two sections, ideas and projects. Writing starts as an idea, and then you can convert it to a project later on. This rather simple organisation makes me think that the app is best used with a minimal amount of projects. So not one that can be used with a large collection of well-organised documents.

Writing

The writing experience in Werdsmith is certainly distraction-free, the interface is quite minimal, and leaves you with just your writing.

However, the Markdown support is pretty lacking, and so are the formatting options in general. You have two headers, bold, italics, and quotes. So not exactly many options to choose from. Not even lists or images.

In addition to the formatting options, you have the option to set an overall format for the document. There are four to choose from, which I think shows the designed purposes of the app. The formats are text, novel, screenplay, or poem. I assume the text format was meant to be the one for general-purpose writing, but I honestly think it may as well not be there.

Export Options

There are export options, so it’s possible to use that to either move documents around or use it to trigger various automations. It’s rather simple, as it just exports the title and text contents of a document, but at least it’s there.

Final Thoughts

This review isn’t as detailed as it would have been if I had tried it out for a longer period, but that essentially shows how far I got with the app.

I’m not a novel or screenplay writer, so I can’t comment on how well it performs for what seems to be the target user, but I can say that it’s not the app for me. The document organisation, writing experience, and markdown support are all things that disappointed me. So while I may have liked other parts of Werdsmith, the fundamentals just didn’t click with me.

So it looks like I’ll be checking out another writing app, which I think will be 1Writer.

My Writing Setup (Feb, 2021)

19th February 2021

Two things made me want to write about my writing setup today, the fact that my Craft trial is ending today, and also the theme for the blogging challenge warmup week.

Before I go too deep into my thoughts around Craft, I’ll go over my current setup, and how I write.

As for devices, I write either on my MacBook Pro or my iPad Pro. My preference is the iPad, but the only keyboard I use is my mechanical keyboard, and that requires me to be sitting at my desk in my office. So that’s why I’m still split across two devices. And also why I’m desperately waiting for Apple’s next event, because I’ll hopefully be ordering a new iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard.

Regarding the apps, this has been slowly getting simpler, with my writing happening in either Craft or iA Writer (more on that in a moment). I use my own app Text Case to handle various text transformations, and also a custom app I built for myself to expose the Ghost API to a few Shortcuts to enable me to publish from any app.

When I publish my writing, this is done via my Ghost blog which handles my blog and my monthly newsletter. Occasionally I also add a featured image to a post, and these either come from myself or from the integration with Unsplash. I’m also starting to use Micro.blog again, so  I might have to start thinking about that within the context of writing apps soon. But for now I’m using Gluon and the website for my Micro.blog reading and writing.

Now to explain the two apps. For quite some time I’ve been using iA Writer as my writing app, but a few weeks ago I decided to give Craft a go. I’d already been using Craft for general notes and research, but I experimented with using it as a blogging tool.

Now my free trial of Craft is a day away from expiring, and I needed top make the decision whether I wanted to continue with it, and pay the £44.99 a year subscription fee. While I’ve been happy with Craft, there are some flaws. So it’s probably best for me to stop now, and see what other options are available before locking in the year subscription.

As for writing for my blog, I’m thinking about checking out 1Writer, Werdsmith, and possibly Drafts. But I’m still undecided what other app will be the new home for my personal notes and research material. If you have any recommendations, then I’d love to hear them.


This post is part of the warmup week for the March Blogging Challenge, the theme today is Setup.

Using Craft To Write Blog Posts

8th February 2021

I’ve been using Craft for a few weeks, but around a week ago I had the thought of using it to write blog posts. I’d already found it a great app for collecting information, links, and images, and was working well as a research tool. But I wondered if this could replace iA Writer for my blog writing.

I shortly discovered that Craft has no functionality to publish to Ghost blogs, which is what my blog is run on. That stopped me in my tracks. But only for a short period, since as you may already know, I  ended up looking into the Ghost API myself, and writing a small iOS app with Shortcut actions to manage uploading images and creating posts. So that got me back trying out Craft again.

Writing in Craft

I find the act of writing in Craft to be very enjoyable. I like how I can use a lot of the typical Markdown syntax, but also have it presented in a way where it looks like a final piece of writing. Rather than in an intermediary language that will then become a blog post later on.

While you could say that there are a lot of formatting options in Craft, it is still relatively minimal and doesn’t introduce a ton of distractions.

There are four fonts to choose from, two options for page width, spell check, cover image, and few extras in the form of page formatting. But for the actual style of your text, you have the various levels of headings, bold, italics, list, checklist, and you can even have a block of text appear as an embedded blog or a quote. So it all seems pretty normal. Although you can change the text colour of a block, which seems a bit novel for a notes app for me. I think that could be a bit useful when organising content, or even just using a nice colour, but I especially like how it doesn’t affect the Markdown export.

I must admit though, there is one feature that Craft has that I absolutely love. Embedding documents within each other.  There are various formatting options, but essentially they appear as cards inside a document.

I’ve used these a few times for more general research writing, but I see these as being pretty useful when doing more long-form writing, as it allows you to manage a structure easier. So I don’t think I’ll need to use embedded content or linked documents when writing the majority of my blog posts, but it’s good to have.

Using Craft as a Research Tool

I think even if Craft isn’t used as a tool for writing a final version of a document, it’s an invaluable tool for gathering research and organising your thoughts. Like I said at the start of this post, I’ve been using Craft for a while already for this very purpose. I have a document for interesting things I find, where I usually store a link and a few thoughts, so I can reference it later if I want to either look further into a subject or even write about it.

There’s a lot more to Craft than just text and images too, with the support for various types of content embeds, linking documents, and the modular design of cards, it can really serve as a hub of information. Couple this together with third-party apps like Spark that allow you to generate URLs for specific emails, and you can put together a document that can serve as a central point for a project.

I have a document like so for my app Text Case, and also my upcoming newsletter. Because while I want to keep different pieces of writing in different documents, I appreciate a level of organisation and I find it a good tool for planning.

Exporting Your Writing

When it comes to taking your writing out of Craft, I must admit there’s room for improvements.

There are a few options for exporting a document into various formats, like Markdown, PDF, Textbundle, and MS Word. But that obviously requires you to then move that content manually into your blog.

Along with simply exporting a document into another format, there are options to send your document to another application. So when you’re finished writing, you can send your document to an app such as iA Writer or Ulysses to finalise any formatting, and then use their built-in publishing tools. It feels like a workaround, but it’s still definitely possible. I have my custom Shortcut actions, which means I can publish directly from Ghost. But there are times where I think using iA Writer as a middle-man is useful, especially when dealing with things like HTML embeds.

I have found that Craft doesn’t support the HTML syntax I like for blockquotes, so right now I’m writing posts that include those in iA Writer. Although I’m still using Craft to collect the links and notes for those posts. It’s not a complex format, I just prefer to use a parent figure element, which contains a blockquote for the actual quote and a figcaption for the author and title of the quoted document. I suppose this could be fixed if there was an option to embed raw HTML in a document, but for now, I have to write that elsewhere.

Final Thoughts

I find Craft a delight to use, and writing becomes a joy when using it. But with the limitations of certain HTML elements and lack of built-in publishing tools, I can’t see it becoming my sole writing app. At least until those things are remedied.

But alongside using Craft to plan personal projects and keep notes, I find it an invaluable tool for research. It may seem trivial, but having a place where you can throw a bunch of content in a single place is super useful, and at least for myself, it removes so much of the friction when it comes to writing. For example, for a potential link post, I used to start with an article or quote, and then have to start from scratch. But with my current collection of links, thoughts, and related content, it’s really easy to then create a blog post.

I can say for definite that Craft will stay as part of my writing workflow, and I’m open to it taking up a bigger chunk, but that responsibility relies on the people at Craft. Let’s see what they can come up with next.

Writing in the Ghost Editor

29th November 2020

I can't quite figure out what caused this transition, but recently I've been writing my blog posts on the web directly in the Ghost editor, and I'm rather enjoying it. A while ago, I would have only thought about using a native app, whether I was writing on my Mac, iPhone, or iPad.

But writing in the editor feels to me more like I'm actively writing on my blog. Not just writing something that may be shared later on to my blog. Maybe that makes sense, I'm not so sure. But there definitely feels like a distinction in my head.

I've seen some comments in the past about writing in online editors being bad, with them being slow, not having a good UI compared to native apps, and even having the possibility to lose your progress. But I don't think the web is that bad anymore. Or at least the Ghost editor isn't. If you want to check it out, Matt Birchler made a great video about the Ghost admin interface.

I wonder what the current consensus is on writing directly in a web interface. Is this behaviour still weird? Or am I simply joining everyone else on this one?

How I’m Using Shortcuts and Data Jar To Help Write Link Posts

18th April 2020

Last night I spent some time reading on my iPad, and I noticed a few articles that I might want to link to from my blog. Except I didn’t want to start creating drafts in iA Writer, or doing any manual work. I just wanted a way to remind myself that I want to link to this at some point.

I started to think that I could simply create a reminder in the Reminders app (I’ve switched from Things), possibly with the URL as a note so I could get back to it when I needed it again. However, that would require me to then later load the URL, and fetch the details from it. And seeing as I would have had the article loaded at the time of reading, it made more sense to store this data, and then be able to reference it at a later date.

So I came up with an idea of two shortcuts, one to store relevant data about the article I wanted to reference, and then another which I could use to select from the list and kick off a draft in iA Writer.

That’s when I thought about using the recently released data store app, Data Jar, which is a fantastic tool for storing all kinds of data.

Store Link Post Idea

To start off, the Shortcut I created to do the initial data storing and reminder creation was relatively simple. It accepts input from the Share sheet, in the form of a Safari web page, and then has just three actions:

  1. Add a new reminder with the title of the article to my blog list.
  2. Create a dictionary with four pieces of data – the title, URL, any text that was selected that I want to quote, and also the author. Although I’ve found the author to not be very reliable.
  3. Store this dictionary at the end of my drafts list in Data Jar.

Download the Shortcut: Add to Drafts List

Starting a Link Post

This shortcut is a bit more complex, as it has to do quite a few things:

  • Retrieve the list of link post ideas from Data Jar.
  • Show the list, and allow the user (me) to select an option.
  • Transform the various pieces of data into a link post outline.
  • Create a new document in iA Writer.

It’s a bit long, so I’ll put the long screenshot below, and then explain why it may seem pretty complicated for what it does, and the things I had to work around.

Start Link Post From Draft Shortcut

To start off, the shortcut gets the list of drafts from Data Jar. This contains all the drafts that have been saved.

It then does a little transformation with that data, using a temporary variable in Data Jar. It clears the value for the specific key I’m going to use, and then it loops through the list of articles, and extracts the title and the index of each article into a new list. This is because we need to show the list of articles, and also perform operations on the specific article that was selected.

The temporary list is then displayed, and from the chosen article, the Index is then used to fetch the complete article data from Data Jar. That includes the title, author, page selection (snippet), and the URL.

Once that data is extracted, the page section is formatted as a Markdown Blockquote via Text Case (my app), and then it’s put together with the rest of the data to form a basic link post outline.

Finally, the outline is URL encoded and opened as a new document in iA Writer via the URL scheme.

Download the Shortcut: Start Link Post From Draft


These two shortcuts are simple in theory, and to be honest I could have achieved the same result with less complexity, and maybe even without Data Jar. However, I like that the storing and kicking off a link post in iA Writer are separate processes. Because it allowed for more flexibility in the future and also doesn’t distract me at the time of reading an article. Which was one of the big reasons for me making these.

I really liked using Data Jar for these as well, so I hope I can make use of it again in future shortcuts!

Links

Find the apps used, and the shortcuts below:

Simply Writing

4th August 2019

Ever since the iPad 2 was released, I’ve owned an iPad. And one of the main things I use it for is to write. The iPad for me is a perfect writing device. And in so many ways, it’s become my favourite computer to use.

That’s slightly off-topic here though, as I want to focus on the software that I’ve been using to write. And how it’s changed over time.

I’ll focus on just three applications that I’ve used over time, that I think represent my thoughts behind my writing, and the content I do (and want to) create.


The first writing application I’ll mention is iA Writer. It’s not the first app I’ve ever used to write, but probably the one when I first became serious about writing regularly for my blog.

I used it mainly because when I was getting into writing with Markdown, it was the most popular at the time. But I kept using it because of the simplicity, and how it let me focus on the raw text, rather than a typical WYSIWYG editor would. 

Eventually, I moved to Ulysses, partially because it was becoming more popular and was recommended by a lot of writers. But the biggest reason was that it provided a kind of full writing ecosystem. It lets you write, add photos, publish to your blog, and also organise your writing, all in the one app.

That was a big deal for me at the time, as I wanted a simple writing flow. And Ulysses allowed me to separate all my writing into one place.

However, the reasons why I chose Ulysses in the first place, eventually became the reasons why I switched away from it.

Although it wasn’t far from a plain text editor, it started to feel a bit too rich for the content I was starting to create. I was beginning to lean towards more text-heavy articles, rather than ones full of links and images. It also really bugged me that you couldn’t just write Markdown, and have it leave it in its raw state.

I also realised that I wasn’t using Ulysses to its true potential and that it felt like extra baggage that I didn’t need. The way I used to publish articles was just to use the built-in publishing tools in the app, but I was slowly moving to a more automated flow using Workflow/Shortcuts. It let me to essentially just use it as a text editor with Markdown support.

That actually led me back to iA Writer, as it let me write in plain Markdown again, and also let me separate my writing app away from where my writing was stored on my device.

At the same time as the switch back, I started using more and more automation. I was creating initial outlines with templates, for things like link posts (Gruber style), and my daily journal that I used to publish here on the blog.

But eventually, iA Writer also felt like too much for the way I was writing. The raw Markdown support was the main reason why I started to use it again, but I still wanted an even simpler solution.

That led me to an app called Pretext. I’m actually using it to write this post, and at this point in time, it just feels perfect. It’s quite possibly the Markdown app on iOS with the least features. And I absolutely love that.

It integrates with the Files app, which it also uses as the backbone of the application. As when you create a new document, you are essentially inside the Files app, and then transported to the Pretext editor, where you can completely focus on writing inside the text file, away from any other distractions. It doesn’t try to interrupt you with any handy features, or visually abstract your writing away from its raw format, all you do it write.

There’s near to none customisation available to you. You can change the text size, UI theme, and the app icon. In the past, that would be nowhere near what I needed, as I tended to worry too much about the exact font I was using, the various colour styles, and in general things that took me away from what I was actually inside the app to do.

With the overall lack of features, with I think is a good thing, it feels quicker than apps like iA Writer and Ulysses. Given all you do is create/open a file, write text, and then either share or close the file, there’s really no lag between hitting the key and having text appear on the screen. It feels super responsive, and while it may be all in my head, that’s not necessarily a bad thing:

Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real? – Albus Dumbledore

With the simplicity of Pretext, it doesn’t change the way I wrote using iA Writer that much, as I can still do all the automation I used to do because of two things. Firstly, the documents are just plain .md files, which I can access through the Files app, and therefore any automation that deals with files is fine. But also, because it features the native iOS share functionality, I can still use my Shortcuts that deal with my writing, like the one I use to publish articles on my blog.


What’s interesting to me, is that how the software I use to do my writing, represents the content that I want to write. With my recent focus on raw text most likely stemming from my desire to write cleaner articles, with more precision, and less fluff.

In an ideal world, the content here on this blog would feature some heavily thought out pieces of writing, side-by-side with various pieces of writing from other people that I’ve linked to, and shared opinions on.

But that’s an ideal world, not where I am right now. I’m still learning how to write better, and at the same time discovering what I want to write about. There may be a long process ahead of me in order to reach that goal, but at least this is one step in that direction.

Two Rediscovered Pieces of My Writing

12th October 2018

I happened to stumble upon two super old articles of mine today, and then I discovered that I’d never moved the content to this blog.

They’re both extremely different, but it shows that the types of writing I

From Ideas To End Users This was published 3 years and 1 day ago (11th October 2015), and it’s about my experience with developing a game, and what it’s like to witness other people experience your creations.

The Heart of a Black Hole This was was even earlier, I published it on the 16th December 2013! From reading it back, I can tell it was inspired by a BBC special, The Science of Doctor Who, which actually featured Brian Cox. I still don’t understand why I decided to try and explain to everyone what a black hole is, how an event horizon works, the effects of time dilation, and also what’s at the heart of a black hole. All I can say, is that I’m pretty weird.

#OpenWeb →

13th April 2018

Michael Rockwell, writer for Initial Charge, has come up with a fantastic new project, #OpenWeb:

I spent a few days over the past week working on a little project that’s been bouncing around in my head lately. I’ve wanted something like this to exist for years and with the skills I’ve obtained from Treehouse over the past several months, I thought it was finally time to build it myself. Today, I’d like to announce #OpenWeb.

The site aggregates headlines from independent publishers that focus on Apple products and software. It also serves as a directory of single-person weblogs within our community. Over the past few years, social networks have become less and less exciting to use and there have been some subtle indications that the open web is poised for a comeback. With Micro.blog, JSON Feed, the meteoric rise in podcasting, and the frustration that many of us have had with Twitter and Facebook — I think weblogs could be the next big thing.

The idea of a place to discover new bloggers, and to help push more independent writers (like myself), has always been something I’d liked to have.

There are 16 sources currently being fed into #OpenWeb, and I’m sure this will grow and be refined over time. But along with the combined feed of posts from these blogs, you can also find an .OPML file, which will allow you to add all of them to your RSS reader of your choice.

Obviously, I’m massively grateful that I was included as one of the sources! I’ll have to pay that back by trying to write better, and more often.

Check out #OpenWeb, and read Michael’s blog post introducing it.