Your Personal Style Guide
Published Fri Jun 17, 2016 | Updated Fri Feb 22, 2019 | Posted in On Writing | By Linda Jenkinson |
Style is a mixture of your own preferences and what your readers expect to see on the page.
For instance, have you ever read something where “web site” was in one paragraph and “website” was in the next? Aside from looking amateurish, there is nothing wrong with it. Both spellings are correct: web site can be two words or a compound word. Another example is Internet, which can be either capitalized or written in lower case. But seeing a word written differently from paragraph to paragraph is distracting for your readers.
Another stickler for many writers is the Oxford or serial comma.
That's the comma that goes after a series of words and before the conjunction (e.g. “and” or “or”) in a sentence. Some writers swear by the Oxford Comma. Other's swear at it or at least about it. Whether or not you use it is up to you. My preference is to use it, because sometimes it really isn't needed and other times it is. The sentence, "This book is dedicated to my parents, Ayn Rand and God" looks like the author's parents are Ayn Rand and God. Add a pause (comma) after Ayn Rand and the meaning becomes clear. The book is dedicated to the authors parents, to Ayn Rand, and to God. The added comma, makes the "tos" unnecessary.
A personal style guide keeps things consistent.
It helps you to remember what your readers have seen before and what they expect to see when they return. A personal style guide can also save you from making common mistakes.
Did you know that not all acronyms are acronyms? There are three types of these letters-become-words:
- acronyms ("as soon as possible" becomes the word ASAP),
- initializations (Content Management System abbreviated to CMS)
- and abbreviations such as Mr. Mrs. Dr. oz, and lb.
While the following style guide is by no means comprehensive, it is a good template for beginning your personal style guide. What would you add that I've missed? Let me know in the comments.