The website’s house style and policies on appropriate language and style, transliteration, translation and general treatment of Indian scripts support the primary values and aims of the JAINpedia project. These are quality, authoritativeness and accessibility.
The JAINpedia website aims to:
- broaden British public awareness of Jainism and the Jain cultural heritage
- enhance knowledge of their religion and cultural heritage among the Jain community in the UK
- provide a resource for academic research
Bearing this in mind, the JAINpedia content and editorial team has developed a house style. This is fairly straightforward and applying it across the site should not offend or confuse most website visitors.
Dealing with a religion that began and is still concentrated in India means that the use of Indian languages has been unavoidable. However, we have developed a policy on this that we believe fulfils the three aims of:
- keeping the website as open to all as possible
- conveying the nuances of often complex concepts that developed in a very different culture thousands of years ago
- introducing website users to the ancient and modern languages the Jains have used, in different scripts, which can seem very complicated compared to the Latin alphabet.
You can read more about the JAINpedia policy on Indian languages on a separate page.
The guiding principle for JAINpedia style is that it should be more or less invisible. This means that the reader is not distracted or puzzled by an unusual word, phrase or use of punctuation.
On the whole, we are confident that we have struck a good balance between:
- accuracy and intellectual rigour
- widely understandable language and clear expression.
To put these aims into practice, the house style follows:
- good practice in writing for the web
- standard British publishing practice
- established rules for English grammar, punctuation, syntax and usage.
Other important considerations when creating house style were:
- the target readership
- the dating system
- how to handle Indian languages.
The uses of language evolve continuously and therefore the house style is a developing set of principles. We make exceptions where these seem to be most appropriate to the overall objectives and values of the JAINpedia project.
You can comment on our house style and editorial principles by contacting us.
Writing for the web
The principles of writing text for websites are derived from years of studies into how people read on screen. More sophisticated technology that is designed to allow people to read onscreen as they read paper is becoming more widespread, but, on the whole, people still read material on screens quite differently from reading printed materials.
The most important features that help readers of text on a screen are:
- text organised in the inverted pyramid style, where the key points are first
- text being broken into small chunks of writing
- clear, short headings and subheadings
- short paragraphs with topic sentences
- short sentences
- straightforward language
- breaking down lists into bullet points.
Good sources of rules to improve online readers’ experience include:
- Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL)
- Jakob Nielsen’s Useit.com
Using plain English is also important when writing for websites. This chiefly means avoiding jargon and wordiness in favour of everyday language expressed in fairly short sentences.
British publishing practice
Good practice in web writing differs in some areas from British publishing conventions, which are primarily formulated for newspapers, magazines and publishing houses. Where this is the case, we prefer web-writing principles.
British publishing practice can be found in publications such as:
- the Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors
- the BBC News style guide
- the Telegraph Style Book
- the Economist Style Guide
- the Reuters Style Guide
- the Guardian and Observer style guide.
Although there are differences among the various style guides, there is a recognisable modern British style, which JAINpedia aims to follow.
The audience for the website is considered to be a moderately intelligent and educated general readership with a reading age of 12 and above. This is not necessarily the same as a 12-year-old reader.
This target audience allows a degree of sophistication when discussing concepts. JAINpedia neither caters to the lowest common denominator nor ‘dumbs down’ the complexities of Jainism. These should be expressed clearly, concisely – in fairly ‘plain English’ – and in an approachable style.
One area where the general reader may be confused is the dating system used throughout JAINpedia. The usual approach is the Common Era system used across the world, commonly shortened to CE. However, dates using Indian systems are also given where appropriate.
If a date is given with no dating system specified, the reader should assume it is CE. The website uses CE and BCE as the standard because:
- contemporary academic usage is primarily BCE and CE notation
- the website is intended for a predominantly British audience, which is more or less used to this system
- the varying Indian calendars and dating systems can be confusing to readers who are unfamiliar with these conventions.
JAINpedia mainly uses Indian months, years and eras:
- in an encyclopaedia article when they form part of a quoted text
- in manuscript descriptions when they are given in a translation or transliteration of text on the original artefact
- when giving dates of festivals.
Jain festivals are celebrated on different dates each time, because the dates are calculated according to the lunar calendar. The Western or Gregorian calendar is a solar one while traditional Indian calendars are based on phases of the moon. The lunar month is divided into ‘bright’ and ‘dark’ halves but the start of a lunar month differs in various parts of the country.
Where Indian months, dates and eras are given, the Western equivalent is also provided.
Western dating system
Traditionally, the AD and BC dating system has been used in English. This is based on the conventional life dates of Jesus Christ.
AD is short for Anno Domini, the Latin phrase for ‘the year of Our Lord’, and begins in AD 1, when the birth of Jesus is traditionally assigned. The historical birth is usually agreed to have occurred a few years before this, when the census ordered by the Roman Emperor Augustus took place. Nevertheless, the convention that Jesus was born in AD 1 has been a cornerstone of the Western concept of time since it spread around Europe with Christianity. The period before the traditional birth of Jesus is therefore given the designation of BC or ‘Before Christ’.
Each civilisation has developed its own system of dating, often based on significant events, political or cultural changes, or cycles in nature. The dominance of Western European culture has culminated in the practical adoption of the BC and AD system of dating across the world, often at the same time as local calendars. However, the centrality of Jesus within this system has led to the adaptation of BCE and CE, which recognise and account for non-Christian world views and histories. BCE stands for ‘Before the Common Era’ while CE is an abbreviation of ‘Common Era’.
Examples of using this less explicitly Christian view of history and time can be found in the 16th century CE and seem to have been used synonymously with AD. Dates using the Common Era notion are still based on the conventional dates of Jesus’s life and are therefore translated directly into BCE and CE but reduce the significance of a particular religious figure in the calendar.
Indian dating systems
In the manuscript descriptions, the dates of copying manuscripts and original composition of the text are given in the Western calendar. Manuscript descriptions that have translations or transliterations may indicate the date if it is given in the treated text. Where this is done, the Indian era is given according to the original artefact.
Several dating systems have been used in India over the centuries. The scribes who copied the manuscripts on JAINpedia tended to use one or more traditional dating systems at the same time. These are usually from the systems known as the:
- Vikrama era
- Śaka era
- Jain era.
The Theme article entitled ‘Jain calendar‘ gives detailed information about various Indian calendar systems and dating eras.