maybe it's not obvious

uncommon etiquette
common sense + best practices for life


maybe it’s not obvious, but the words “dilated” and “effaced” should never, EVER appear in your facebook status.


Banh mi put a bird on it beard, farm-to-table drinking vinegar meggings ethnic squid organic occupy four loko butcher plaid actually. Vegan tousled quinoa butcher, Bushwick ugh authentic master cleanse fanny pack. Keytar Helvetica distillery, letterpress Schlitz Pitchfork Truffaut Brooklyn retro…

“Too many young girls don’t know how to act when someone’s being inappropriate with them. They giggle or they try to brush it off. Don’t do that. Tell them to go fuck themselves - be a bitch. If someone’s being disrespectful to you, be disrespectful right back. Show them the same amount of respect that they show you.”

—   Wise words from my mom (via magicrobotgeography)

(Source: smallfreelancer, via rachelhills)

all image formats are not equal

maybe it’s not obvious, but gifs are not pngs are not jpgs.

jpg is the best file format for photographs on the web (but not for print. but that’s another post). When there is a lot of variation in shading and lots of tiny areas of many colors, save your image in this format; it supports 16 million colors. But if you try to save a logo, line drawing, or any text in jpg format, the output will be very grainy.

gif image files are the poorest quality of the three, but they support two important features that jpgs do not: frame animations and spot transparency. Because gifs only support 256 colors, they are a terrible choice for photos, which will display all pixel-y in this format (gradients can look like stripes). Best to use gifs for areas of big solid color with very crisp edges, like logos. Pro-tip: logos and text for the web display best with a transparent background.

pngs improve upon gifs in several important ways. They support semi-opacity and feathered edges. If any edges in your image look crunchy as gif, try saving as png. You should avoid saving large (height x width) photos as pngs, because these files are the largest (in bytes), but for line drawings and logos, the compression is better than gif.

dear bloggers

you can definitely NOT use the word “curation” as a synonym for “collection,” as in “a curation of lovely things.”

That is simply WRONG usage.

parts of speech

Some compound words are compounded or not depending on what part of speech they currently are.


  1. Please enter your login (adjective) information to log in (verb) to the website.
  2. The designer will mock up (verb) a mockup (noun) of the final design for you.
  3. I’m going to the gym to work out (verb); it’s gonna be the best workout (noun) ever!

As a general rule: if the second word is a preposition and the phrase/word/concept is a verb, it’s two words. If the second word is a preposition and it’s a noun or adjective, concatenate that!

things that have filters

File this under things that weren’t obvious to me. 

In early August, our bedroom air conditioner was acting up. We had it on full blast, but it wasn’t cooling the room at all. One day I noticed that the front was coasted in a dense layer of ICE. I immediately turned it off, grabbed a dirty towel out of the hamper and folded it up on the ground under the AC (to catch the dripping icemelt). Then I called my dad, because who else do you call when a piece of machinery coasts itself in a thick layer of ice?

My dad told me something that probably should have been obvious: that my air conditioner has a filter. And that that filter needs to be cleared at intervals. I checked mine just this past weekend because the AC seemed like it was lagging a little bit, and it was totally jammed up again.

So, this is my end-of-summer assignment for you: tug on the edges of the vent-front of your AC. It should pop outward on a hinge. There will be something that looks a bit like a dense mesh windowscreen inside. Tug that out. If it is shiny and clean, good job! If it has dusty-lint-looking schmutz on it (like a clothes dryer filter), you need to clean it. 

There are two ways clear the filter: you can vaccuum off the schmutz, or you can run the filter under water. I prefer the second: hold the filter shiny-side up, and blast hot water through it, knocking out all the gunk. Then let the filter air dry before replacing it.

You should probably check your AC filter monthly during the summer. At least that’s how often mine seems to need clearing.

Another thing that has filters: your hair dryer. It can get seriously gross in there, too. 

Clogged filters can make machines short out or catch on fire, so keep them clear.

sidewalks are superhighways addendum

I’ve written before about how to walk on sidewalks. You’d think it would be obvious, right?

I live in a major city that is home to several colleges and universities, and the students are arriving or returning. And they REALLY don’t know how to use sidewalks.

Here’s an analogy: do you watch Sons of Anarchy? You know how when all the bikers are riding their motorcycles on a long, desolate stretch of empty highway, they shoot in and around each other, scattering and clumping? You can do that on sidewalks only ONLY ONLY when they’re empty. On a deserted stretch of sidewalk, you and your friends or significant other can walk shoulder-to-shoulder five wide while doing the can-can for all I care. 

BUT, when the Sons see an oncoming car, they form up right quick into single file IN THE RIGHT-HAND LANE, where they’re supposed to be. You need to do that too.

Like I said earlier, sidewalks are pedestrian superhighways, and you need to treat your fellow pedestrians exactly as you would any car that you are SHARING THE ROAD with. In America, that means you need to travel in the right-hand lane. Otherwise, you look like some hick tourist from a shitty backwater town too small to have sidewalks.

how to tip

It is never, ever okay to tip less than 15%. If you get the world’s worst service, tip 15%. 

An appropriate restaurant tip is 18%-20%. 

An excellent tip is above 20%+.

Here’s a dirty little secret or few: Your server earns two dollars an hour. Your server’s job is much, much more demanding and difficult than your job—unless you are also a server, or a bartender, or a Gulf oil rig worker, or a Bering Sea crab fisherman. Your server’s job requires great intelligence, a photographic memory, two or three superpowers, and highly specialized skills. (How many heavily loaded plates can you balance up and down the length of your arm while also carrying six drinks without spilling a drop?) Your server does not get paid time off, sick days, or health insurance.

Additionally, your server’s wages are taxed at a rate that assumes that he or she is being tipped at a certain rate. If you tip your server less than this percentage, you are basically creating a situation in which he or she is forced to pay the government in exchange for the pleasure of waiting on you. And if you’re the kind of asshat who tips below 15%, I’m certain it’s not a pleasurable experience. That is a seriously dickish move.

And kids: this includes bartenders. You can tip $1 on a $5 beer, but one dollar is NOT a standard or accepted per-drink bar tip.

If you order four labor-intensive $14 mojitos and tip four dollars, you are a classless and clueless asshat. The ladies notice these things. The tip on your $56 drink order needs to be at MINIMUM nine or ten dollars. If you wish to be served well and promptly the next time you belly up to that particular bar, it should be more like $12-15.

a screen is not paper

There are certain traditional design practices that most people are pretty familiar with from formal invitations and such. None of those things work well on the web, though. And in email, they look super-spammy.

I am referring to things like writing in ALLCAPS, centering all text, making text bright red or some other standout color, and so on. 

Fonts with serifs (like Times New Roman and Georgia) read better on paper and sans-serif fonts (like Ariel and Verdana) are easier to read on screens. 

Some of our bad habits are traditional due to the limits of old methods of print. Underlining, for example, became commonplace in print because typewriters could not print italics. But it’s super-distracting to see text underlined for emphasis on the web because underlining has become so closely associated with hyperlinks. 

If all the text on your blog is centered, I won’t read your blog. EVER.

Another thing I see a lot is raggedy old 
and orphans. 

Online, widows most often result when someone decides to force line breaks to make the text lay out better. What they don’t realize is that while it may look better on their screen, it’s only their screen, and it looks like an e.e. cummings poem everywhere else. (You know what makes this even worse? All the text being centered.) In fact, if you open a different browser on your own screen, your text will likely be laid out differently: a screen is not paper. If you want to really control the white space around your text, learn some super-simple CSS. (style:margin)

If you want to emphasize text online, then header styles, display fonts, and size are all your friends. White space is your best friend.