Many of the documents AlterEnglish receives suffer from a style inappropriate to their field. For some writers refering to a style guide could be very useful.
What Is a Style Guide?
A style guide is a manual detailing the standards to be followed for the writing, correct tone, and sometimes the design of documents. Style guides can clarify everything from preferred word choice and register (degree of formality) to overcoming common grammatical mistakes or the “gray areas” of language.
Why Do I Need to Refer to a Style Guide?
Often the documents we are asked to edit lack both clarity and credibility. Refering to the guidelines found in a style guide that sets standards for tone and style preferences will allow you to write with more confidence, authority and authenticity. Guides cover:
spelling of brand or industry terms.
tone for various publications/communications.
word choice to avoid bias or objectionable content.
font style and formatting.
methods to avoid ambiguity (especially useful for documents that may have scientific or legal information). If you need to create content that could have legal ramifications or reach a highly-scientific community, clarity and formality are very important. You don’t want to patronize your audience, but you also want to protect yourself from doubt or legal trouble.
What Style Guide Should I Use?
There are several very detailed style guides commonly accepted by different industries. The following is a list of a few of the major style guides used in the U.S.:
The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook: Used for journalism and news writing
American Psychological Association (APA) Style: Used for academic writing in the social and behavioral sciences
Chicago Manual of Style (CMS): Used by several industries including book publishing as it covers style preferences for multiple subject areas
Modern Language Association (MLA) Style: Mostly used in academic settings, especially for literature and the humanities
W3 Style Sheets and Web Style Guide: Used for web design/creation
Depending on your industry and location, there might already be a preferred style guide. Also, if you write academic papers, your professor or the publication in which you want to be published will likely have a preferred style.spelling of brand or industry terms. Here are some academic guides courtesy Wikipedia:
A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, Seventh Edition: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers, by Kate L. Turabian. (Commonly called "Turabian style".)
MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers by Joseph Gibaldi. (Commonly called "MLA style".)
Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association by the American Psychological Association. Primarily used in social sciences. (Commonly called "APA style".)
AMA Manual of Style: A Guide for Authors and Editors by the American Medical Association. Primarily used in medicine. (Commonly called "AMA style".)
Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers by the Council of Science Editors. Used widely in the natural sciences, especially the life sciences. (Commonly called "CSE style".)
The printed versions of the manual produced by the American Chemical Society (ACS) are entitled ACS Style Guide: Effective Communication of Scientific Information, 3rd ed. (2006), edited by Anne M. Coghill and Lorrin R. Garson, and ACS Style Guide: A Manual for Authors and Editors (1997). Primarily used for the physical sciences, such as physical chemistry, physics, and related disciplines. (Commonly called "ACS style".)
Until next time, take care