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Gatsby Style Guide

The Gatsby community is building out a more comprehensive Guides section. It will be full of relevant articles written to be easily understood by the awesome people who love building with Gatsby!

We plan, write, and maintain these Guide articles on GitHub.

Table of Contents

What are Guide articles?

Guide articles can cover a broad range of topics. Please see the following examples: tutorials, code documentation, explanatory articles, and focused guides.

What can I write an article about?

We welcome your help writing these articles! You don’t have to be an expert in a topic to write about it—this entire Guide is open source, so even if you make a mistake, another contributor will eventually correct it.

If you’d like to help by writing an article, find a stub article in the Gatsby Guides (with an italicized title like this Title), write the article, then open a pull request (PR) in the Gatsby GitHub repo to replace the stub with your article.

If you can’t find a stub about the topic you’d like to write about, you can open a PR in GitHub that creates the stub and includes your draft article. Feel free to ask us questions if you’re not sure where to put a new article in the directory structure.

Before you begin writing, make sure to read the article style guide below.

How to contribute

You can create a PR with your draft article (or edits on an existing article) in two ways:

  1. The easiest method is to use the GitHub interface. Read these instructions on how to create a draft article or propose edits in the GitHub interface.
  2. Go into the “docs” folder and find the article stub you’d like to write or edit. All stubs will be in an file.
  3. Click the “Edit this file” pencil icon and make your changes to the file in GitHub-flavored Markdown.
  4. Scroll to the bottom of the screen and add a commit message explaining your changes. Then select the radio button option for “Create a new branch for this commit and start a pull request” and click “Propose file changes”
  5. On the next screen, you can add any other details about your PR, then click “Create pull request”.

If you prefer to write locally before submitting a PR, then follow these steps:

  1. Fork this repository
  2. Copy your fork to your local machine.
  3. Add a remote upstream so git knows where the official Gatsby repository is located by running the command git remote add upstream incomplete code here
  4. Create a new branch for your work with the command git checkout -b NEW-BRANCH-NAME. Try to name your branch in a way that describes your article topic, like fix/ArticleHTMLElements
  5. Write your article, commit your changes locally, and push your new branch to GitHub with the command git push origin NEW-BRANCH-NAME
  6. Go to your repository on GitHub and open a PR

Make sure to maintain your local fork going forward so it stays up-to-date with the Gatsby guides repository. The next time you want to contribute, checkout your local master branch and run the command git pull --rebase upstream master before creating a new branch. This will grab all the changes on the official master branch without making an additional commit in your local repository.

Running the Guide locally on your own computer

Finally, if you want to run a version of the Guides repository locally, follow these steps:

  1. Ensure you have the yarn package manager installed npm install -g yarn
  2. Install the Gatsby cli yarn add --global gatsby-cli
  3. Follow the steps above to fork and clone the Gatsby repo.
  4. Enter the www directory where is and install its dependencies yarn install then run gatsby develop.

Article style guide

We’ve written the following article style guide to help you get started with contributing.

Table of Contents

Article title

Article titles should be as short and clear as possible. We want readers to quickly find the information they’re looking for and the title should reflect the main theme of the article.

Here are some title examples:

  • Creating and Modifying Pages
  • 404 Pages
  • What is GraphQL?

The folder name is used in the URL, so only use dashes -, numbers 0-9, and lowercase letters a-z for it.

Here are some folder name examples:

  • creating-and-modifying-pages
  • 404-pages
  • what-is-graphql

Note: Just to clarify, you can include special characters in the article title but not in the folder name (e.g. Title: What is GraphQL? and Folder Name: what-is-graphql).


Each article should explain exactly one concept, and that concept should be apparent from the article’s title.

We can reference other articles by linking to them inline or in an “Other Resources” section at the end of the article. Our goal is to have many articles that cover a broad range of technical topics.

General writing tips

Before you begin writing, create an outline of the topic and think about any coding examples you’ll use (if applicable). This helps to organize your thoughts and make the writing process easier.

Articles should be written with short, clear sentences, and use as little jargon as necessary. All jargon should be defined immediately in plain English. In other words, pretend like your readers have very little coding experience; you need to define words that beginners might have a hard time understanding.

The introduction paragraph should only be a 1-2 sentence explanation of the main topic. It should limit the use of any links to other Guide articles, as these can be distracting.

Keep paragraphs short (around 1-4 sentences). People are more likely to read several short paragraphs instead of a huge block of text.

Use active voice instead of passive voice. Generally, it’s a more concise and more straightforward way to communicate a subject. For example:

  • (Passive) The for loop in JavaScript is used by programmers to…
  • (Active) Programmers use the for loop in JavaScript to…

If you want to abbreviate a term in your article, write it out fully first, then put the abbreviation in parentheses. For example, “In computer science, an abstract syntax tree (AST) is …”

Text should use the second person (“you”) to help to give it a conversational tone. This way, the text and instructions seem to speak directly to the person reading it. Try to avoid using the first person (“I”, “we”, “let’s”, and “us”). Using second person is also more accurate than saying “we,” because typically only one person is reading the tutorial or guide at a time and the person who wrote the tutorial is not actually going through it with them, so “we” would be inaccurate. Finally, some technical documentation uses third person pronouns and nouns like “they” and “the user,” which add more distance and feel colder than the conversational and warm “you” and “your.”

If there are other Guide resources you think readers would benefit from, add them at the bottom in an “Other Resources” section.

You can add diagrams, graphics, or visualizations as necessary. You can also embed relevant YouTube videos and interactive code editors.

Don’t use emojis or emoticons in the Guide. Gatsby has a global community, and the cultural meaning of an emoji or emoticon may be different around the world. Also, emojis can render differently on different systems.

Format language keywords as code - this is done with the backtick key (located to the left of the “1” key on a US keyboard) in GitHub-flavored markdown. For example, put backticks around HTML tag names or CSS property names.

Use the Oxford Comma when possible (it is a comma used after the penultimate item in a list of three or more items, before ‘and’ or ‘or’ e.g. an Italian painter, sculptor, and architect). It makes things easier, clearer, and prettier to read.

Avoid using words like “easier” or “simple,” because if users have a hard time completing the task that is supposedly “easy,” they will question their abilities. Consider using more specific descriptors; for example, when you say the phrase “deployment is easy,” what do you really mean? Is it easy because it takes fewer steps than another option? If so, just use the most specific descriptor possible, which in that case would be “this deployment method involves fewer steps than other options.”

Hyperlinks should contain the clearest words to indicate where the link will lead you. So instead of linking to the word here link to Gatsby’s docs.

When a paragraph or sentence offers an optional path, the beginning of the first sentence should indicate optionality. For example, “if you’d like to learn more about xyz, see our reference guide” is clearer than “Go to the reference guide if you’d like to learn more about xyz.” This method allows people who would not like to learn more about xyz to stop reading the sentence as early as possible. This method also allows people who would like to learn more about xyz to recognize the opportunity to learn quicker instead of skipping over the paragraph.

Formatting example code

Readers will likely use Guide articles as a quick reference to look up syntax. Articles should have a basic, real-world example that shows common use cases of its syntax.

Here are specific formatting guidelines for any code:

  • JavaScript statements end with a semicolon

  • Use double quotes where applicable

  • Show generally-accepted best practices, particularly for accessibility

  • Comments made should have a space between the comment characters and the comment themselves

  • GitHub-flavored markdown supports syntax highlighting in code blocks for many programming languages. To use it, indicate the language after the opening three back ticks ```

    <div class="awesome" id="more-awesome">
     <p>This is text in html</p>
    function logTheThings(stuff) {
    .awesome {
    background-color: #fccfcc;

Adding images to articles

For including images, if the images aren’t already hosted somewhere else on the web, you’ll need to put them online yourself. A good way to do this is to commit them to a GitHub repository of your own, then push them to GitHub. Then you can right click the image and copy its image source.

Then you’d just need to reference them in your markdown file with this syntax: [your alt text](your url)

Then the images should show up when you click the “preview table” tab.

Proper nouns

Proper nouns should use correct capitalization when possible. Below is a list of words as they should appear in Guide articles.

  • JavaScript (capital letters in “J” and “S” and no abbreviations)
  • Node.js

Front-end development (adjective form with a dash) is when you’re working on the front end (noun form with no dash). The same goes with the back end, full stack, and many other compound terms.

How to Write Clearly

Technical writing, or the literature of science and technology, is difficult because it requires you to take a technical (usually abstract) topic and explain it in a clear, accurate, and objective manner. You’ll likely go through several rounds of proofreading and editing before you’re happy with your writing.

Use the Hemingway App. There’s nothing magical about this tool, but it will automatically detect widely agreed-upon style issues:

  • passive voice
  • unnecessary adverbs
  • words that have more common equivalents

The Hemingway App will assign a “grade level” for your writing. You should aim for a grade level of 6. Another tool available is the De-Jargonizer, originally designed for scientific communication but might help avoid overspecialized wording.

Also, there’s a community of support from a whole team of contributors, whom you can bounce ideas off of and ask for input on your writing. Stay active in the contributors chat room and ask lots of questions.

With your help, we can create a comprehensive reference tool that will help millions of people who are learning to code for years to come.

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