Style guides

Written style guides are key to developing and maintaining consistency in your publications. It is not important whether you prefer to talk about U.S. or US attitudes, events during 1936–44 or 1936–1944, 9 June 2009 or June 9, 2009 etc. What is important is that you are consistent in your usage. Apart from misplaced apostrophes, one of the most irritating features of poor-quality written English lies in the inconsistency. Yes, we know there are those who say that as long as the message is getting across, it doesn't matter. But ask yourself: Would you believe a lawyer if he/she mentioned two witnesses and then five minutes later mentioned three? How comfortable would you be with a doctor who used five different terms for the same disease?

Style guides evolve over time. It's best to start one when you first start publishing material either in-house or on your website. We keep a style guide for each of our regular client publications, using the Oxford English Dictionary as our 'bible' to spell words not specified by the client. We add to each one as we copy-edit a new article, paper, or report.

Style guides generally comprise two parts:

  1. Formatting – heading styles, paragraph spacing and indentation, rules for emphasis, etc.
  2. Word usage – U.S.A. or USA; policy-maker or policymaker; 21st century or twenty-first century, etc.

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