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Style Guides - Why Bother?

Style Guides

When you are writing it is worth thinking about a style guide. I’ll probably ask if you have one. But why? You want me to check that everything is grammatically correct and that all the words spelt right. What more information do I need?

Well, as so often in life, there is never one right way to do things!

Grammar rules are more like guidelines

First of all, do you want the spelling and punctuation to be UK English or US English? Either is fine, but you will need to choose one or the other. If you want UK English, then do you want -ise endings or -ize? Both are perfectly acceptable in UK English, but you need to be consistent throughout the whole document.

The style guide goes beyond spelling and punctuation. You can include things in the layout that you want to be consistent. So, you might state that all headings should be in bold with only the first letter capitalised. You might want to state what abbreviations to use or how to lay out dates and time.

How to decide what to do?

So how do you decide what you want? Sometimes it will mostly be decided for you. If you are writing a paper for a journal or a dissertation there may well be a style guide you will be expected to follow. If you look at journal websites, they will often tell you how they expect the paper to be formatted, how the references should be written, how to write numbers and how to present tables and figures.

If there is no official style guide you can develop your own. Have a think about what you want and who the audience is. Are you writing for an international or a UK audience? What other documents do you already have and how are they written?

For example, imagine that you run a gym and want to put together some information leaflets on different exercises for your clients. You already have a website and some nutrition leaflets. Have a look back and see what you have done before. Make a note of how you formatted the documents, any spellings you used and how you abbreviated things. That’s your style guide started.

Style Guide template

I have an example template on the website that you can download and fill in. It is worthwhile to take the time to make sure your work is consistent and professional looking. Click the link below to take you to the resource library.

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