Sometimes it feels difficult to get a handle on the ‘right’ answer to a particular style question – should this word be capitalised? Where should I be using hyphens? What exactly should I do with semicolons? What form of wording should I use in this situation? That’s because often it’s not a matter of right and wrong, but a question of taste and consistency.
While organisations sometimes spend a lot of time and money getting their brand guidelines right, editorial style can come a poor second. But editorial style guidance should be a key component of any brand – and it makes the production and checking of any written material easier, faster, and crucially, more cost-effective. Having an agreed editorial style means that your communications have a consistent style and tone and you won’t spend time debating minor style points when you have brochures, blog posts, sales material and other documentation ready to be published.
That’s why I was so happy to read writer and teacher Shaunta Grimes’ post on Medium about the joy of having your own personal style guide. This exercise is relevant for all writers – whether they are authors or writing on behalf of their organisation.
If you don’t have your own style guide yet, there are loads of resources online – both style guides and templates for creating your own. Of course, I also like to go ‘old school’ and reach for my copies of Hart’s Rules and The Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors.
I really enjoy helping our clients to write and develop their own style guides. It cuts down the time our editors and proofreaders spend deliberating over minor style points, and it cuts down the time our clients need to review editorial queries. It’s also good to see your style guide as a living document; it will be most effective and useful when it is regularly reviewed against the ever-changing linguistic landscape.