In Style

Many publications have their own in-house style guide.  The Guardian’s style guide is one of the more famous, and it is interesting to download the 1928 style book of what was then the Manchester Guardian, penned by the mighty editor CP Scott.

It’s invaluable to get consistency between writers, but if your work is technical or your audience is likely to be unfamiliar with many terms then it becomes all the more important. I subscribe to the excellent weekly newspaper The Economist.  It is printed in a glossy news magazine format, and has a great app for both Android tablets such as my Nexus 7 and iPad.  It gives a good mix of news, finance, economics and politics, and one of its key features is that most articles do not have byline.  This makes it all the more important to have consistency in writing.  I spotted that they have started publishing parts of their style guide on twitter:

Economist Style Guide

Writing technical documentation for an audience is very similar: A little-used acronym here, or an unknown phrase there can quickly turn off a reader and can make the reader lose the ‘bigger picture’ of what is being communicated.  It’s also surprising how many phrases don’t travel well internationally.  I’m reminded by my US colleagues to “knock on wood”, rather than “touch wood” when hoping for a success in the near future.

The full Economist Style Guide is available online, with an emphasis on brevity, clarity and jargon-free communication.  Engineers and technical writers would be wise to take note.

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