With so many people writing so much stuff, often in languages that are second to them, it’s amazing everyone understands it all. Maybe that’s a reflection of the flexibility of the structure and syntax of languages like English where you can usually get away with grammar horrors and misspellings yet still gain understanding from your message.
There are plenty of schools of different thought concerning what’s right and wrong in terms of language usage, and what’s appropriate in a business environment. It’s that latter situation where rules, principles and guidelines are likely to be of greater import than the bustling informality of social media interactions where, often, anything goes.
Which is where style guides come into play.
Two guides that I’m familiar with and which are among the best known in modern times are The Associated Press Stylebook in the US, and The Economist Style Guide in the UK. Both of these works, originally intended for journalists’ use, have gained authority and respect over the years as reference tools of choice for correct usage of the different ‘flavours’ of English practiced on each side of the Atlantic.
I’ve often wondered how non-native English speakers manage, though, when the authoritative guides to a language seem more about forcing adherence to rigid usage rather than recognizing the fluidity of how the language is actually used in practice by people in different countries around the world. But that’s a topic in itself for discussion another day.
A new style guide is coming next week – The Yahoo! Style Guide, a publication that very firmly states “Learn how to write and edit for a global audience through best practices from Yahoo!”
The bold text is my emphasis. Can a publication really offer practical advice on how to write and edit English for a global audience without being parochial about the English it demonstrates? And that differentiates it from other style guides?
I’m very keen to see how this guide addresses such a broad remit.