What’s your house style?
When it comes to an area like math, there’s no room for deviation, e.g., two plus two will always equal four. English, however, is a different story. While there are plenty of grammar rules, style deviations do exist, thus the fact that there four style guides: The Associated Press Stylebook (AP style), The Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago style), The MLA Handbook from the Modern Language Association of America (MLA style) and The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA style).
The two most widely used styles are AP and Chicago; the former is used by journalists and throughout the corporate world, while the latter is used for books. Which one should your business use? You actually don’t have to make a choice: you can create your own house style, taking the elements from each style that resonate most with you.
As I’ve said many times, what’s most important with respect to writing style is consistency, so once you choose to do something a certain way, always do it that way. It’s a good idea to produce your own style guide to ensure anyone who writes for you follows your in-house rules — and all your written materials are consistent.
Like most things about AP style, but prefer to use the Oxford (serial) comma? Okay. A fan of Chicago style, but prefer to only spell out numbers under 10? That’s fine. Pick and choose as you like — but focus on consistency.
You don’t have to be a big company to have a style guide. Yours may start out small, but you should be adding to it on an ongoing basis. You probably have certain ways you like to handle things like capitalization; you may love or hate contractions; and maybe there are punctuation marks you never want to use, like exclamation points. Having this guide will help your team, and it’s invaluable if you ever hire an outside writer. I’m surprised how few of my clients have them.
When you write with consistency, you increase readability — which should always be your goal.
Can it be?
August 31, 2004 was the last day I worked for someone else. It’s hard for me to believe that I’ll have been a freelancer for 17 years on September 1. Thank you to everyone who has helped me reach this exciting milestone.
The ly issue
Do you know that compounds beginning with adverbs aren’t hyphenated? Many of my clients don’t seem to be aware of this.
Not sure what an adverb is? It’s a word that ends in ly.
Thus, compounds like largely irrelevant or financially astute aren’t hyphenated, even when they modify a noun, i.e., a financially astute borrower.