How do you choose your organization’s style guide?

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Question: "My office produces so much written communication now that is seen by the public that I think it’s time we officially adopted some sort of style guide so that we’re not putting wildly different spellings and meanings out there. Does anyone have any experience with either picking a known one or creating their own from scratch? What’s the easiest route to go?” – Radi, Administrative Assistant III

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark September 11, 2013 at 12:24 pm

When our business changed names a couple years ago, we hired a consultant to assist not only with coming up with a new name, logo, and tagline, but also a style guide. It includes what fonts, corporate colors, and general styles to use. They were very expensive, but what they came up with far outshines what we could have done on our own.

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Len September 10, 2013 at 11:00 am

Trying to create your own can take a long time, and it’ll have to added to constantly. The best bet is to pick a solid foundation like the AP style guide and insert exceptions as you need them–but beware exceptions! If you start letting everyone chime in, it can get chaotic. You should accept the style guide as your Constitution and only amend it in a pinch. Otherwise the foundation becomes meaningless and no one knows what’s going on.

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DeeCee September 5, 2013 at 5:37 pm

I created our firm’s style guide. I started with the way the shareholder’s preferred our reports/documents to look, then I set our own standard for formatting, and for the spelling of industry-specific terms (spell checker doesn’t recognize some of the terms we use – for instance, is it noncancelable or noncancellable-with 2 L’s? and is it workpapers or work papers?). Consistency is very important, so, when in doubt, make the best choice you can and then make it your standard. I use the Gregg Reference Manual for answering most of my questions regarding proper word usage, spelling, and grammar.

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Pam G September 5, 2013 at 4:34 pm

If you’re writing press releases, you should use AP. If you’re talking general business writing, use Chicago (the country’s most commonly-used style).

I would think it’s easier to use an existing style–my Chicago hardbound manual is probably 1.5″ thick, so there is a LOT of info to consider. The upside is that it’s well-organized and easy to find what you need. And of course, it’s available online as well (currently $35 per year). I’ve not tried the online version so I don’t know how easy it is to use.

The easier you make it for a journalist to use your press release, the more likely it is that they will, but ultimately, it doesn’t matter too much which style you use, as long as you pick one and stick with it.

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Patti September 5, 2013 at 4:31 pm

A resource document was created several years ago, which included the organization’s preferred style. However, when in doubt, we turn to the Stylebook.

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Angie September 5, 2013 at 4:18 pm

AP Style Guide is my bible for written communications. It works well because then it’s already in the correct format for any pieces submitted for journalistic publication, it’s clean and gives formatting for a multitude of issues.

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