The Chimerist

Posts tagged Evernote

Maud and I have been going back and forth on The Chimerist’s house style. My journalism background makes me unusually sticklerish on this subject; I care less about which style we use than that we’re consistent. Maud likes the Oxford comma, which I’m not used to since it’s not AP style (what most of the publications I write for use). I did adjust to it, though, when writing my book, which was governed by the Chicago Manual. So, we’re using the Oxford comma. Unless I forget, in which case, Maud gets to scold me.

The thing we’re hung up on, however, is how to set the names of apps. AP style puts the titles of most works of art in quotation marks, rather than italics. That’s due to something about typesetting in the newspapers where AP style emerged back in the olden days. (It also turned out to be good for early HTML publications, where the last character in an italicized word would lean into the space before the first character in the next word set in roman type — awful!) But italics do look better, and you don’t run into trouble with possessives.

Anyway, we’ve been kicking the question around, and at one point Maud went in to put the titles of all apps in quotes. This didn’t seem weird for apps like "Chopsticks" or "Meanwhile," which are obviously fictional, narrative works like novels or films. But what about Evernote or Flipboard? They’re apps, too, but setting their names in quotes or italics feels strange — they’re tools like Microsoft Word or Scrivener, not works of art. (Though Scrivener comes pretty close to art in my book.)

This question gets to the heart of what we want to explore with The Chimerist. Some apps are most definitely works of art; others are definitely not. But what about Strange Rain, an app that I approached as a piece of storytelling, but that my friend Clive uses as a sound effects machine when he’s having trouble getting to sleep? An app that’s not especially creative — say, a basic catalog of images from an art exhibit — would definitely get quotes or italics if it were published as a printed book, but requires a lot less ingenuity in the making than Evernote.

We decided from the start that The Chimerist would not cover the utilitarian apps that (along with games) dominate most app review sites. We want to do our small bit to foster and encourage the innovative use of tablets as a creative platform. But the App Store is a crazy hodgepodge of barely-organized stuff, from currency converters to interactive versions of T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land.” (As a former bank clerk, Eliot might have appreciated the irony of that.) It’s not always clear what’s art and what’s not. After all, most people think of Steve Jobs as immensely creative but he never made an actual work of art in any conventional sense of the term. 

Who knew that a little thing like quotation marks could trigger so much soul-searching about our mission?

—Laura Miller