Style Guides

Since I often refer to different style guides in the Editor’s Corner, I thought perhaps I should provide you with more information on this writing tool.

What is a style guide?

A style guide is a set of standards and rules that writers and editors use to provide consistent documentation. The standards differ from guide to guide, but usually contain rules for the following:

  • Punctuation
  • Spelling (e.g., abbreviations, hyphens)
  • Language (phrasing)
  • Grammar
  • Formatting
  • References

Generally, you use a style guide geared toward specific type of publication or field.

Why do people use style guides?

Writers and editors use style guides to provide consistency and uniformity in articles, newsletters, documentation, and other written communication. According to Wikipedia, “…consistency is the major purpose of…style guides. They are rulebooks for writers, ensuring consistent language.”

Which style guides do we use at JHA?

Different departments use the style guides that best fit the writing they do. Each documentation “shop” chooses the guide or guides that provide the information they need. For example, Marketing uses The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law (aka AP Stylebook), which is geared toward journalism, reporting, magazines, public relations, and marketing. The AP Stylebook provides consistency, while allowing more leeway for the creative use of language.

Our cohorts in Springfield use the Microsoft Manual of Style an excellent guide for technical writers, editors, and content managers.

At Symitar, we use the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), which is an expansive guide on everything from American English grammar and usage, to the different roles and steps involved in publishing.

Cruise uses a combination of guides for documentation, most prominently their “house guide.” What, pray tell, is a house guide? So glad you asked! A house guide is a compilation of standards that are usually exceptions to rules in a published style guide.

For example, the JHA Marketing Copy Stylebook mentions that marketing uses the serial comma in all situations, even though the AP Stylebook does not call for it. Similarly, in Episys eDocs we refer to radio buttons, which is not a preferred term in the Microsoft Manual of Style, so we have that exception noted in our house guide.

The following are some of the house guides used at JHA:

  • Episys Style Guide
  • Cruise Style Guide
  • JHA Marketing Copy Stylebook
  • JHA Brand Identity Standards

What’s new at JHA on the style front?

While writers and editors carry on with their standards, there is an effort to create a companywide set of standards to apply to all JHA brands. To present ourselves as “one company” to our clients and customers, the JHA Creative Committee is in the process of updating JHA brand identity standards.

This does not mean it’s time to throw out or change the style guides your department uses; it simply means that there are a series of standards in the works that will apply across the company for certain deliverables. The project encompasses, but is not limited to, documents such as:

  • Corporate correspondence
  • Letters to customers and clients
  • Slide show templates
  • RFPs
  • E-mail
  • Newsletters

Watch JHA Today for news and updates on the JHA brand identity standards.

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