Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Writing in Style

If you're an English User that has to write a lot in English, then you might believe that you need to know all or most of the rules about writing.

In some cases, there are people who really do learn those rules, but don't worry if you are not one of them.

Why not? Because there are style guides.

What is a style guide?

A style guide is a document that is created by expert writers, editors, managers, or producers to determine how they expect a writer to deal with specific writing issues. Among these we can name the following:
  • grammar issues
  • spelling issues
  • formatting issues
  • general writing recommendations
A grammar issue could be related to punctuation, use of contractions or even if a certain text should be written in past or present tense. Spelling issues often revolve around whether to use the American or British spelling for words.We recommend the one that is most common for your readers, organization or field.

There might also be formatting issues related to what font to use for a specific section of the document, report of blog. (Such as this one) And of course, there are always writing considerations regarding the use of jargon or words that are only used by people in a common field. (doctors, accountants, lawyers, etc)

In business, there are style guides for all types of writing, including emails, reports and business plans. There are also endless guides for academic writers for research papers and special academic documents. And naturally, there are style guides for periodical journal writers such as journalists, columnists and bloggers.

If you are a business or non-business writer of English as a second language for your organization or for other purposes, it is probably a good idea to develop a manual of style. In other words, you should determine what common elements appear in the writing that need to have specific rules in order to keep the writing consistent and professional to the reader.

  • Spelling
  • Format
  • Line Spacing
  • Paragraph Style
  • Editorial Style (formal, technical, fun, young audience, etc)
  • Text Style
  • Use of images
  • Referencing the work of others

Perhaps one of the best known style guides in the academic world is the Chicago Manual of Style. It is considered by most writers and editors to be among the most complete. And its style recommendations are useful to non-academic writers as well.

Below is a short video describing what the Chicago Manual of Style is about.

However, there are many more options online that are available to writers. Here is a list of some of them:

American Style Guides
  • Garbl's Editorial Style Manual
    Developed by editor and activist Gary B. Larson, this concise guide offers "writing and editing advice about abbreviations, addresses, capitalization, English grammar, numbers, organization terminology, plurals, possessives, punctuation, spelling, word usage, and the World Wide Web."

  • National Geographic Style Manual
    Online since 1995 and frequently updated by a team of editors, this is an alphabetically arranged guide to "preferred National Geographic Society style and usage."

  • The Tameri Guide for Writers: Generalized Stylebook
    Maintained by Susan D. Schnelbach and Christopher Scott Wyatt, the Tameri Stylebook is "based on the Associated Press Stylebook, which is the primary style guide for reporters and editors at daily newspapers and many periodicals."

  • Wikipedia: Manual of Style
    This style guide for all Wikipedia articles is intended to help editors "write articles with consistent, clear, and precise language, layout, and formatting."
British Style Guides Online
  • The BBC News Styleguide (pdf)
    Written by John Allen, a BBC reporter and editor for the past 40 years, this popular manual "is not a 'do and don't' list but a guide that invites you to explore some of the complexities of modern English usage."

  • Style Guide
    John Grimond's online guide is based on the style book followed by journalists at The Economist magazine. The 10th revised edition of the hardback version of the guide was published in 2012.

  • The Guardian, Observer and Style Guide
    Edited by David Marsh and Amelia Hodsdon, this is the online version of Guardian Style. The third edition of this witty handbook was published in December 2010.

  • Telegraph Style Book
    Augmented by monthly "style notes" from associate editor Simon Heffer, this is the "official guide to house style" for The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph, and