The Importance of a Style Guide (was Re: Friday-type questions)

Subject: The Importance of a Style Guide (was Re: Friday-type questions)
From: Tom Murrell <trmurrell -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 22 Mar 2002 11:13:50 -0800 (PST)

Stan raises some interesting points to ponder, and those responding to this
thread raise even more good points, even the linguistic ones.

I'd like to move from the specific to the general and advocate that you take
your pet peeves and use them as part of your style guide. Lots of time we
discuss these items of word usage and realize at some point that it depends on
what you like or what you think is right. I learned from a noted grammarian and
rhetorician that the sum of these stylistic decisions are just that: personal
preference. Prof. Corbett had his 14 Ways To Crash Land in his class, and he
freely admitted that they were his personal style rules. Even as he reminded us
in no uncertain terms that in his class we had to follow his rules, he also
invited us to go therefore and do likewise.

To end a sentence with a preposition, or to declare that it is impossible to do
so, are both ultimately personal writing choices. The contents of The Chicago
Manual of Style are a set of institutional decisions that are no more right or
wrong than the contents of the Microsoft Manual of Style, to name just two. You
can use one or the other or something else or an amalgam or make up your own.

The beauty of this approach is that not only does it remind you that you are a
writer and these are writer's choices, it also gives you a way to solve a
wording issue once, write it down, and thereafter only refer to it when needed.
Maintaining a style guide, even if you're a shop of one, simplifies the job
immensely. And it's fun, too. You make a rule, put it in the style guide.
Later, someone else--say an SME--writes something you don't like. You either
change it or make the SME change it. If they complain, you point out that
you've simply made the text conform to the style guide. (I know you think I'm
joking, but I'm very serious.)

Tom Murrell
mailto:tmurrell -at- columbus -dot- rr -dot- com
Personal Web Page -
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Friday-type questions: From: Stan Schwartz

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