Style guides

Subject: Style guides
From: geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA
Date: Fri, 17 Jan 1997 13:15:22 -0600

As an editor, I look on style guides from a moderately
unorthodox viewpoint. If I have to use one religiously
(e.g., to submit manuscripts to certain journals or
publishers), I'll do so... and if the guide is as screwy
and unnecessarily complex as the APA style guide, I'll
wince and complain the whole time.

If not, I treat the style guide as a list of rules of thumb
that explain how we've done things in the past, and an
explanation of time-tested solutions to recurring problems.
For example, I learned many of my editing skills by reading
the Chicago Manual of Style from cover to cover and taking
the time to understand _why_ each recommendation was
presented; this took a long time, but now I don't have to
constantly flip to the guide every time a style problem
comes up because I can think the problem through the way
Chicago would.

I don't treat a style guide as a bible, since there are
exceptions to every rule. If you want to use an extreme
example, most style guides contain a list of preferred
spellings; so do dictionaries, as it happens, and I prefer
to use a good dictionary to guide my spelling. IMHO, the
best way to consider a style guide is to remember the
"guide" part: we're not talking about a style "rulebook",
but rather a guide to help you be consistent and effective
in your communication.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Disclaimer: Speaking for myself, not FERIC.

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