Your Style Guide — Use It Wisely


by Marc Laidlaw

Director, Style Enforcement Agency


Your reader has just come out of a Phom McNguyen Shoe Store and is standing on the curb, expecting answers. It is always advisable to make an attempt to link disparate images in order to create the illusion of causality:

  • Peering through side window of lowrider car as it waits at stoplight.
  • Pulsebeat music, foam dice, soccer scores.
  • Clear catheters trail from young driver’s intestines into vinyl dashboard. Gauges register fuel, speed, rpm, blood pressure, heat of digestion, petroglobin viscosity.

Subjectivity is the chief variable, but several constants must be taken into consideration:

F = Feitzer’s Reader Credulity Quotient (calculated by sexual precocity indices and National Debt at date of birth)

A = Avogadro’s Social Security Number

Mister X = Number of times reader has encountered references to faceless technicians in genre literature (Western, Romance, High Finance)

It is important to explain all facts and insinuations, especially those which are most easily accessible in other textual works, for purposes of providing internal coherence to 20th Century Prosody and in order to facilitate cross-referencing careers to 21st Century librarians. Supervisual footnotes are the most acceptable format for such interpolations.


I never shop at Phom McNguyen’s despite the weekly sales. I am afraid that people might look at my shoes and know that they are a generic brand, or the next worst thing, and not the work of a reputable Italian designer.


By “lowrider,” the author is referring to an automobile, preferably of mid-20th century American manufacture, favored by urban North American Hispanic adolescents, equipped with a mechanized suspension system whereby the relationship of the chassis to the street may be varied by remote control. For social context, ask your librarian to matriculate the glossary.

If you are contractually bound to the conventional design, precede as outlined in Author’s Guide to Plot Concretization published by the National Arts Task Force. For the convenience of such authors, the work has been done for you. Please recast in your own writing, or enter attached soft-mag cartridge into any UPS-compatible text generator with your personal access code and savings account number.

For Manual Entry

  • Reader spied by Hispanic driver; laser-guided eyes fix on reader’s tennis shoes; face shows no expression but bioregisters on dashboard betray slight fluctuation.
  • Sourceless panic.
  • Standard chase.
  • Agency intervention. (File Form XT-1023 for list of Agencies possessing Intragenre-Specification license. Unauthorized mention of any Agency, licensed or otherwise, is punishable at discretion of Civil Service Defense League.)
  • Enforcement of judgment. If your reader is still permitted access to literature after sentencing, hse may finish the story in hsis own words, expressing sorrow for any ethical-civi1 violations, and include completed work with Form RHB-1134, Plea for Rehabi1itation. Otherwise, drive to next corner and check pedestrian shoes. (GOTO “Riverrunrrex:Joyce”. )

Authors who have been granted permission to proceed by a licensed organization (National Semiconductor Foundation for the Arts, President’s Council on Fractal Plot Exploitation, North American Treatise Organization) may continue in accord with principles and intentions as detailed in the approved Proposed Request for Funding. It is advisable (although not enforceable) to employ abstract verbs instead of nouns, and to make liberal use of excessive clauses, empty phrases, promotional sex defects, and dehumanizing slang. Such techniques will give the innovative work a superficial resemblance to standard texts and therefore render it palatable to the general audience.

  • Driver nods. Silver-nailed finger lifts from the steering wheel three times.
  • Covert code recognition.
  • The crowd pushes out around you but you keep your place on the curb, nodding three times back at him.
  • He looks away from your shoes.

Obviously the Style Guide cannot follow authors beyond this point. Until the artist files the Provisional Acceptance Form, hse must follow hsis best judgment, as provided by the strictures indicated on all credit allotments.

  • Finger the cold plug in your belly; you touch a leak, wishing that it looked more like asweat stain, wondering who in the crowd can see.
  • Shrill brass horns. The sun caught in the cement warren. Oven temperatures.
  • Lowrider rumbles and pulls away into traffic.
  • Jealousy, you know?


If the text is rejected, the author must first submit to involuntary screening and accept the possibility of holocortical revision by a qualified editor or hsis editorial consultant. Emotional quotients will be rebalanced to offer increased objectivity, and then recommendations will be made by the PolyDecisional Authority Board. The author at this point may wish to return to the conventional format (see previous instructions), or else hse may further develop the work until it is considered suitable for social integration. Once approval has been granted, the artist has cause to rejoice. (See form RJC- 465. )

  • The light changes back to red. Trapped again.
  • Another lowrider pulls alongside you. Driver glances out.
  • You decide to make contact.


For the dedicated artist, this may be the most difficult phase of creation: artifactual collaboration. An acceptable text is immediately distributed nationwide and judged for applicabi1ity by a wide range of media utilities, including cinevideo inducers, sociocultivators, satellite principalities, light rail surgeons, hive designers, rheological medics, extermination surveyors, and UPS-compatible academicians. All of these departments and many others are required by law to put your text to work.

  • The finger lifts three times from the wheel.

As the social order encounters your text, facilitators will first reduce it to the basic constituents, then “predigest” any content for maximum bioavailabi1ity. A consumable product may take the form of a mass-marketed “Eat&Learn” planarian diet, or it could be as homely as a mandatory printed-wall feature. There can surely be no thrill to compare with that of the author whose work has been injected into the economy, to become part of every citizen’s neutral baseline status.

  • You give three nods.


This maladaptive syndrome has become less common in recent years. At one time, authors stated that the sight of a sheet of blank paper waiting to be filled was an obstacle to the first stroke of creation. We have tried to remedy this problem by providing a plethora of forms and flow-sheets, many of which are already at least partially completed for the author’s convenience. In addition, there are many public domain programs designed to break the seemingly endless sheet of ice represented by 93.5 square inches of white paper.

  • The light changes.

For further information, file Form PTW-109 (Permission to Write), or present your Querent’s License Number to the Style Enforcement Agency. Please check the Information Etiquette Access Guide for your social classification and save yourself time and money by making sure that your question is not forbidden before you ask it.

  • Ah, brotherhood!
  • You step down from the curb.
  • “I have a message—”
  • Squeal of tires, stench of burning rubber.
  • Spiderwork cracks infiltrate your vision as your windshield eyes shatter.
  • You’re not my reader, and you never were—













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“Your Style Guide – Use It Wisely” copyright 1989 by Marc Laidlaw. First appeared in Semiotext[e] SF (1989), edited by Rudy Rucker, Peter Lamborn Wilson and Robert Anton Wilson.