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Style matters

I love style guides. I really do. I love comparing and contrasting different guides and different styles. The fact that style guides contradict is of no consequence — it is internal consistency that counts.

I, like every journalist and commercial writer, will use different styles for different clients. For a UK business blog I will use standard British English with Bill Bryson’s Troublesome Words and Chambers Dictionary as my reference books. For an international business I’ll use standard American spelling and the AP Styleguide. Any disputes will be referred to Messrs. Strunk & White's Element of Style.

I'll sometimes get out my old copy of the Bloomberg Way from time to time, if only to re-read the entry banning the use of the word "launch" in any circumstances unrelated to space shuttles and ships.

Even so, there are some elements of style that transcend all guides. Many of them can be found in George Orwell’s Politics and the English Language. Here are a few:

Avoid jargon. Write in words, not phrases. Write simply: don’t try to impress. Avoid unnecessary punctuation. I’d add to that a plea for writers to use capital letters only when absolutely necessary.

Anyway, every time I see a good new style guide, I will put it up on my blog, creating a sort of online museum of grammatical perfection and pedantry.

Here are a couple to start off with, both courtesy of @Coastmatt.

Style & Substance, the Wall Street Journal’s style blog:

Style Matters, a fabulous blog from former Daily Mail sub editor, Margaret Ashworth:

As a bonus free gift, here is an edition of BBC Radio 4's brilliant show A Good Read in which science writer Steven Pinker discusses why he thinks Strunk & White is a bit of a page-turner.

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