Author Archives: B.K. Marcus

About B.K. Marcus

Father of Benjamin, husband of Nathalie, BK Marcus works from Charlottesville, Virginia, as a publishing consultant. He is the founder of Invisible Order and former managing editor of, where he selected and altered images for every Mises Daily article for eight years. He has also been responsible for developing the Mises Institute's ebook program (now selling more than 250 books at and iTunes) and the ebook program for the Laissez Faire Club at BK focuses on developing electronic books and beautiful imagery for libertarian publishers, such as, Reason magazine, and others. His own blog is at

What Is a Style Sheet?

DigitalChicagoIn the world of digital publishing, style sheet is an ambiguous term.

It originated in the print-publishing industry. A style guide (or stylebook) is a book that lists the important rules of capitalization, punctuation, some basic grammar, some spelling issues, and the syntax of citations in footnotes and endnotes. At Invisible Order, our standard style guide is The Chicago Manual of Style. Other style guides you may have used or at least heard of include the Associated Press (AP) stylebook, the guide for the Modern Language Association (MLA) — even the venerable Strunk & White probably counts.

But there are various reasons a particular publication or company may want to diverge from the rules given in a style guide, while still wanting to remain consistent. If so, they maintain a document for their "house style." To avoid confusion, in IO we call this our house style guide, but the common term from the print world is "style sheet." As the name implies, it was not supposed to be longer than a single sheet of paper. It doesn’t have to be a list of differences from the main style guide; it can also be a list of the most important rules from the main style guide. You can see ours here.

Why would it cause confusion to use the term the way the print world does? Because at Invisible Order, we do both editorial and technological work. And on the technological side, "style sheet" means CSS (i.e., "cascading style sheets"): instructions to a web browser or ebook reader for the visual presentation of text and images.

I’ve worked on teams where someone would say "style sheet," and everyone thought they knew what the term meant, but the coders thought it referred to typeface, character size, and layout, while the writers and copyeditors thought it referred to commas, semicolons, and compound adjectives.

Fortunately, it’s easy to avoid the ambiguity. On the editorial side, we use the term "style guide" to cover both the Chicago Manual and our house style. We use "CSS" to be unambiguous on the tech side. And when someone talks about a style sheet, I smile and nod and look for an opportunity to make sure I know which kind they’re talking about.


Filed under Ebooks, Language, Publishing, Tips and Tricks

an Orwellian interpretation of Orwell

IngSoc, Reagan Bush '84Despite being the 20th century’s greatest anti-socialist novelist, Orwell has found himself posthumously adopted by a wide variety of socialists.

His novels 1984 and Animal Farm, which attack English and Soviet socialism very directly, are taught instead as generic anti-"totalitarian" works.

As David Aaronovitch writes in BBC News Magazine,

[T]here has been a well-established and heartfelt desire on the more moderate left to claim that Orwell was indeed a genuine socialist whose warning was aimed at totalitarianism in general, not at the left per se.

I was reared and schooled by the kinds of leftists who embraced Orwell and taught me that 1984 was about totalitarianism in general, not socialism per se. I even thought of the book as an attack on the Reagan administration, and argued with my (neo)conservative girlfriend about it in high school. A few years later, I was very embarrassed by my easy acceptance of the interpretation I had been taught.

(h/t Wendy McElroy)

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Filed under Education, News and Commentary

The Language of Learning

Social StudiesMike Reid of has written about the Orwellian manipulation of language in “The Voice of Tyranny.”

As libertarians in the language business, we have both an ideological and very practical attachment to this subject.

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Filed under Education, Language

Censorship Schmensorship

CensorshipButtonIs censorship illiberal?

As with so many simply worded questions, the answer depends on how we define our terms. I don’t say that as a dodge. I don’t consider this issue "merely semantic." I just notice with some annoyance that many people use the same term to mean different things where the difference in meaning is critically important.

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Filed under Language, Publishing

A Natural Birth

Image“Nothing is more natural than humans innovating to make life safer or more comfortable. Not even having a baby without painkillers.”

IO’s very own Mike Reid reflects on what is and isn’t “natural,” while his baby daughter comes into the world.
This article will be in the next print edition of the Freeman, but you can read it now on

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Filed under Nonaggression Anthropology

Editing for Liberty #15: So Long, Friend

Can You Spot the Error?

  1. Firstly, the ratio between demand and supply varies at different points in time, because personal circumstances and future expectations are constantly changing. Secondly, we systematically underrate our “future needs” as well as the “means to meet them.”
  2. For the further development of the Austrian School, Capital and Interest (Die Geschichte und Kritik der Kapitalzinstheorien, 1884) was to be trend-setting in two ways.
  3. The Austrian position is supported by the fact that many things have been used as money throughout history in various parts of the world: commodities such as salt, clam shells, and animal skins.
  4. On the face of it, the solution sounds rather reasonable and has the support of a very popular Congressman.
  5. The Supreme Court could still be relied on to uphold the constitution and safeguard the civil liberties of individual citizens.

Read on for the solutions! Continue reading

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Editing for Liberty #11: (Be)cause & Effect

Coin of Emperor Basil I (reigned 867–886 AD)

Can You Spot the Error?

  1. At some point, Basil also began sleeping with his wife, since she bore him two more sons after Michael’s death.
  2. Under market conditions, such dismal performance would unquestionably have a substantive impact on a company’s bottom line; after all, if an airline agreed to bring its passengers to Maui but instead brought them to Midland, a rational observer would expect the business to flounder soon after.
  3. The elimination of such antiproperty-rights laws will make people more self-reliant and thus less dependent on government.

Read on for the solutions!
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Filed under Editing for Liberty