Style Books: The Importance of Consistency

Style books are designed to be reference books for writers, editors and for anyone outside the media who works with words. Style guides give valuable information on: spelling (compound words and hyphenation), capitalization, abbreviations, punctuation, bias-free language and so much more.

In the past Canadian editors have combined two traditions: British and American with some added local idioms and vocabulary. The Editors’ Association of Canada created a guide, Editing Canadian English, and I’ve added it to my library of writing tools. From my own experience it can be a puzzle at times to figure out if the punctuation is American or British and where does a Canadian style fit in?

Who decides what is standard? I believe it’s the public. It’s the people who read and listen. The target audience influences the author’s choice of style, by those who respond to it. The media determines their in-house style based on their audience.

Careful language is usually a sign of careful thinking. Language skills present ideas in a clear, hard hitting way. Reference guides are tools to help us make an informed choice to polish our work.

The English language has been constantly changing as it passes through history. Shakespeare wrote for the people of his time; yet unedited, his work is hard to read today. And as it continues to evolve, I feel it’s important to keep learning the differences developing an eye to recognize them.

Is one style better than another? No, I don’t believe so. I believe it’s important to make consistent choices and the more I learn about the different styles only serves to become better at the overall crafts of writing and editing.