Style guides and the web
While writing on the web (or for any publication) might seem like just a question of stringing words together and avoiding libel, it’s actually full of choices, at every step. How do you actually write the full title of a councillor? What is the accepted way to refer to dates and years before the birth of Christ? All these questions and more are answered in online style guides.
Bigger organisations with a culture of publishing in-house may develop their own style guides. These set out the way the organisation likes to express itself in public. It’s all about consistency, context and consensus. Getting the message across about the organisations’ ideals and values is a lot about how the actual message is transmitted.
You may wonder if this is why larger cultural organisations get hot under the collar about having control over the number of people who can blog or speak ‘for’ the museum or gallery in public. You may be right to wonder this…
For the rest of us, it’s easy to use style guides. For many years, writers on all sorts of intelligent publications, on line and offline, have been using one or two key style guides as templates for their own tone of published voice.
First choice guides – luckily both online – are The Guardian and The Economist. It’s not about making all writing read the same, it’s about how you write fundamental things like dates, times and units of money.