Thursday, May 17, 2018

Some Tips on Writing Fake Mormon Newsroom Stories

This morning my son emailed me a link to the now infamous fake news story about President Nelson apologizing for the LDS Church’s racist past. For someone intimately acquainted with the LDS Style Guide, it was immediately obvious that this was not produced by the Church. And whoever was responsible spent a lot more time getting the website knock-off to look right than actually writing a credible news story.
So, here are a handful of tips for whoever concocted this story (and for anyone else who would like to attempt a similar stunt).
1. Get the name of the Church right. In the very first line, “Latter Day” appears. The RLDS Church used to have it this way, but the LDS Church always hyphenates, with “day” lowercased. In your second use of the name, the initial “the” is lowercased, a hyphen appears, but “Day” is capitalized. If this had been released by the Church, the initial “the” would have been capitalized and the “day” lowercased. Of the seven instances when you give the entire name of the Church, the only one you get right is at the very bottom where, ironically, you copied the style guide note from the real website.
2. The LDS Church prefers unique spellings of certain words. “Counselor” always has one L, not two. You got it right twice and wrong twice. Consistency also matters, by the way. Likewise, the Church prefers to spell “fulness” with one L.
3. Learn how and when to use an em-dash. You used hyphens. This isn’t just LDS style, but almost every style I’m acquainted with. Hyphens are not em-dashes. Either you don’t know how to make an em-dash on your computer or you don’t know what one is. An official Church publication wouldn’t get this wrong.
4. LDS style generally advises spelling out numbers ten and lower. So, using “5” in the text sticks out to a trained eye. BYU Studies, I should add, follows Chicago on this, so we spell out all numbers one through one hundred.
5. LDS style capitalizes pronouns referring to Deity. You’ve got it both ways. Sloppy. BYU Studies again follows Chicago (and scripture) here and lowercases these pronouns.
6. Capitalization. Well, good luck on this one. You’re all over the board. There are rules governing this in the LDS Style Guide, but they sometimes don’t make a lot of sense. You just have to be well acquainted with the system, so you’re at a distinct disadvantage here.
7. Punctuation. Again, you really don’t have a clue. And it would take far more time than I have to even begin a tutorial.
Well, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. From what I read, I came to two conclusions: First, whoever wrote this was totally unacquainted with LDS Church style (indeed, probably any style). Second, it is a whole lot easier to create a website that looks like real McCoy than to compose a stylistically correct document (that's why they pay us editors the big bucks!). Obviously, the creator of this spoof was no Mark Hofmann.


  1. I knew Mark Hoffman. Mark Hoffman was a friend of mine. Whoever you are, you're no Mark Hoffman.

  2. Why are you straining so hard to discuss everything but the actual content of the parody? The author's objective was to highlight the continual presence of racism in the LDS canon, by means of a passable (and apparently rather effective) imitation. Why not address his concerns head on?