Unlike the concept of style in clothing, which changes at the whim of a celebrity such as Twiggy (remember her?) donning a skirt barely below her derrière (we have italicised it as our style is to do so when using foreign words), style in writing is critical. Yet few writers, and even fewer organisations, seem to give a hoot.
With increasing regularity, I am presented with documents, all intended for public consumption, which will use full stops, commas and other punctuation marks inconsistently; capitals similarly so; the use of ‘s’ and ‘z’ with gay abandon in the same word (eg criticise and criticize) and so on.
A sloppy stylistic practice serves simply to illustrate a writer’s laziness, ineptitude and an organisation’s lack of professionalism.
No organisation worth its salt should be without a style manual. The great newspapers and news magazines of the world, reputable publishing houses (and here I do not refer to vanity publishers which increasingly satisfy the egocentric trips for those who cannot get published elsewhere and are therefore guilty of stylistic applications that are sometimes laughable) all have style manuals which are updated regularly and applied religiously.
Style manuals apply to rules of grammar, spelling, idiomatic expression, the use of capitals, the way in which one writes figures, brand names, and the company’s own name. In South Africa, for example, the government’s department of Trade and Industry has a somewhat quaint style of writing its acronym as ‘the dti’. It is a pain to implement, but it builds a brand name of what is otherwise a controversial government entity.
Stylistic inconsistencies in any document serve only to impede a reader’s progress and negatively impact on the author’s credibility.
For organisations such as Quo Vadis Communication, for which I work, this means using a number of style books for different clients. It is sometimes time-consuming and even confusing. It is, however, critical because the image the organisation wishes to present is one of consistency and professionalism.
Writers similarly should adopt a consistent style and create a style book. If your business or organisation does not have a style manual, contact a reputable organisation to assist you in producing one.
It will immeasurable enhance the way in which you and your organisation communicate.