What are style guides?

Michael has covered the APA and MLA writing styles in an earlier post that you can find here. There are numerous writing styles and you should always check to ensure which style you will be using for a particular piece of work. Simply putting “Style guide” into Google or other search engine will throw up a whole list of these guides.

Every publication will have it’s own writing style guide which you will be expected to follow for your own work if you expect to see it published. Fortunately, getting hold of a style guide is free if the publication has it stored online and is available for th elikes of you and me to download gratis. You can find the Guardian’s here and for the academics, the Modern Humanities Research Association (MHRA) has their’s here.

What are you going to uncover in these Style Guides?

They cover virtually every aspect of presenting and editing your work for publication and set a unified standard that contributions should meet.

Consider this; would you use a full-stop after an abbreviation such as “Dr” ?

Personally, I wouldn’t, but some people may.

How about using a comma before the conjunction “and” in a list within a sentence?

Some do and some don’t bother – neither is wrong.

What about the use of italics and capitilisation? Bold print? Brackets and parentheses?

I was listening to Radio 4 yesterday and came across a comic routine spoofing world affairs. The Libyan leader Qaddafi was referred to as the only leader who’s name can be spelt in a thousand ways! Khaddafi, Qadafi, Kaddafi, Chadafi and so on.

Which spelling would you use?

Now you are beginning to appreciate what a style guide actually is for. To set a unified standard for the publication so every writer uses the same spelling for such names, uses a comma instead of a dash and controls the use of an exclamation mark. Essentially the publication may be made up of hundreds of different contributors but it presents a homogenous face to the world.

I’m going to leave you with a quote from William Saffire of the Guardian which I consider extremely good advice:

Saying it in style

“Do not put statements in the negative form. And don’t start sentences with a conjunction. If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing. Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do. Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all. De-accession euphemisms. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky. Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.”