A matter of style – style guides

Style manuals or guides set out standards for writing, proofreading, and editing documents

They provide guidance on matters such as:

  • use of abbreviations
  • preferred punctuation styles
  • formatting of lists
  • capitalisation of words
  • how numbers are expressed.

    Style guides may be specific to the writer’s audience, such as academic papers, legal documents, business documents, or journalistic articles.

Country variations

There are some variations across Australian, British and American English.

In Australia, editors and writers usually reach for the Australian Government Style Manual 7th ed, managed by the Digital Transformation Agency.

 

This online guide replaces the previous, well-loved handbook, Style Manual: For Authors, Editors and Printers by Snooks & Co,6th ed. 

 

In the US, commonly used style guides include the Associated Press Stylebook (AP) for journalists, or the Chicago Manual of Style, Yahoo (for the web) and APA for academia.

In the UK, there is the Oxford Guide to Style, formerly known as Hart’s Rules and the University of Oxford website provides a less comprehensive on-line style document. Other guides include The Guardian style guide (also done according to an index), Copy-Editing: The Cambridge Handbook for Editors, Authors and Publishers, and The Times Style and Usage Guide.

Style sheets

Beyond the recognised guides and manuals that inform style, a writer and his or her editor may wish to discuss any particular preferences. These may include punctuation (double/single quotation marks, paragraph breaks, use of the serial comma), writing numbers, spelling (UK, US, Australian English), etc. The editor will record any special characteristics of the writer’s style in a style sheet. As well as capturing editorial decisions, style sheets are handy for monitoring the internal consistency of a work. For example, if you call a character ‘Marian’, then her name will need to be spelled this way (not ‘Marion’ or ‘Marianne’) throughout the manuscript.

Summary

Style manuals and guides set out standards for writing, proofreading, and editing documents.

They are country-specific.

Where an author departs from the usual language conventions or has idiosyncratic rules, a style sheet helps the writer, the editor and finally the proof reader understand and apply what the author wants.

Word choices: sliver vs slither

Serpentine snakes slithered in the sliver of moonlight

Just a quick post to remind you to watch out for words that are sometimes used incorrectly.

One example is sliver vs slither.

Sliver of silvery moon

Your character might see a sliver of the moon or eat a sliver of watermelon.

 

 

In contrast, they may see a snake slither into view.

 

 

 

To check I’ve picked the right word, I use the prompt: a sliver of silvery light.

 

Ah, the English language can be so fickle!

 

Shifting complex text into a format that everyone can read

One of my other loves is writing easy read documents.

What? I hear you ask.

The easy read format is a way of writing text that is accessible to a wide range of readers. For example, people who do not speak English as their first language may struggle with unravelling complex technical documents. Similarly, people with learning disabilities or cognitive impairment may find it tricky to glean the key messages in text that has colourful flourishes, multiple sub-headings, tiny print, and no supporting images.

Easy read takes plain language one step further in the way we set text out on the page. We also use pictures or photos to support the messaging.

To learn more about how to become an easy read writer, head on over to easyreadtraining.com.