Stylebooks: How to Write Professionally

By | Sep 6, 2010

We all know how important proper grammar and punctuation are in business writing.  We all took English in school and learned the basics, but questions of style can be more complex.  When talking dates, do we refer to the “1950s” or the “1950’s”?  Is it “an historical event” or “a historical event”?  Is that title capitalized, italicized or underlined?  The answer to these questions depends on the industry doing the writing and what stylebook they use.

What Is A Stylebook?

A stylebook is, essentially, a set of rules or standards used in writing and design.  Once upon a time, individual organizations each had their own stylebook or style manual.  Some of them sold that manual to the public.  Over time, certain stylebooks have become the de facto standard for particular industries.  In the world of journalism, it’s The AP Stylebook;, in book publishing, it’s The Chicago Manual of Style; and in business, it’s The Gregg Reference Manual.  This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but in general, these are the books that these industries use.

Which Stylebook Should You Use?

The stylebook you use will depend a great deal on your industry.  The first thing you should do is check with your boss.  She may have a particular preference for a certain stylebook, or your company may dictate the stylebook to use.  You may even find yourself using different stylebooks for different tasks.  For instance, you may use The AP Stylebook for newsletters and The Gregg Reference Manual for business letters and memos.

If your boss or company doesn’t dictate the stylebook to use, you should use the appropriate stylebook for the task at hand.  The important thing is to be consistent in the stylebook you use, so your writing is consistent overall.

What Stylebooks Do You Use?

Tell us what stylebooks you use in your office and/or industry?  Do you use the good old Gregg or one of the other many manuals available to you?  Leave a comment and share your practices.

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