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Questionnaire: Does Your Company Have an Effective Style Guide?

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 23 Apr 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Company Style Guide Effective Style

A style guide is a resource which details agreed upon rules for writing style and formatting. Many companies create style guides so that all employees have a central reference to check when they have questions about writing in the house style, but not all company style guides are effective for this purpose.

To help you decide if your company's style guide is effective we have put together the following questionnaire. Answer "yes" or "no" to each question. Total your "yes" answers and match this number to the explanations at the end to determine if your company has an effective style guide.

  1. Does the style guide include rules on spacing within a document?
  2. Does the style guide include rules on proper punctuation for documents?
  3. Does the style guide include rules on using bold and italic text in documents?
  4. Does the style guide include rules on writing about numbers and measurements?
  5. Does the style guide include rules on capitalisation of specific words?
  6. Does the style guide include rules on proper spelling for specific words?
  7. Does the style guide address including footnotes or endnotes in a document?
  8. Does the style guide address formatting lists in a document?
  9. Does the style guide address writing captions for illustrations or images in a document?
  10. Does the style guide address legal requirements (copyright, trademark) of certain terms?
  11. Do you know where to find a copy the style guide when you need one?
  12. Is the style guide updated at regular intervals?

Yes to 0 - 4 Questions

If you answered "yes" to between zero and four questions then your company likely does not have an effective style guide. Even if you only work on a small number of documents in your position, or only a few different types of documents, you should still have a style guide available which takes into account the most common questions of style and usage. The point of a style guide is to save time when you are writing and the best style guides answer more questions than you will likely ever have, but your style guide does not do one or both of these things. If you are interested in creating or updating a style guide for your company then ask the powers that be how you could go about doing so. When you have approval, informally ask around to find out what types of information other employees need when they write and look over existing style guides such as the BBC News Styleguide, the Guardian Style Guide or the Associated Press Stylebook to get ideas about what topics to include and how to structure your new style guide.

Yes to 5 - 8 Questions

If you answered "yes" to between five and eight questions then your company may have an effective style guide. It is likely that your company does have a basic style guide in place, but whether or not it meets most employees' writing needs is another matter. Take note of questions you have had in the past which the style guide has not answered and informally ask others if they have had any similar experiences. Go through the existing style guide and look at sections you feel are too brief and could do with expanding. Make a list of topics the style guide does not address at all and which you feel have become common in employee writing It may be that there is already a person or committee designated to update the style guide, so enquire when the last time an update was made. You'll need to be tactful about advising that another update is due, and you may find that simply by making the suggestion you are seen as volunteering to do the work. Be prepared to take on this extra responsibility when you broach the subject.

Yes to 9 or more Questions

If you answered "yes" to nine or more questions then your company likely has an effective style guide. The style guide seems to cover most major topics of style and usage, so if the questions above have revealed any topics not yet covered you should make a note of these for the next update. Also make sure that the style guide is available for all employees when they need it, which in this day and age may mean placing on a company intranet or password protected Web page for employees. Making sure that the style guide meets all employee needs and is available on demand are the two most important steps to ensuring your company's style guide is as effective as possible.

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