In the electronics industry, style guides can be pretty dull: mainly consisting of how to write technical terms and abbreviations, as well as preserving the various trademarks and pet terms used by a company. Despite this, style guides are crucially important as consistancy does make communications more effective. But are style guides given enough attention? I thought it would be interesting to see how one of the most respected news agencies in the world – the BBC – deals with issues of style.

The good news is that their style guide is freely available – go the the BBC Training website to download it. The bad news is it is 92 pages! Burried within these pages is one of the best sentences I have ever seen in a style guide: “If in doubt, ask yourself how you would tell the story to the man on the Manchester tram, and use that as your guide.” Fabulous! This is the secret to good style – make your message simple, clear and easily understandable.

Another gem is the section on using Americanisms, which says, “Many American words and expressions have impact and vigour, but use them with discrimination or your audience may become a tad irritated.” Classic British understatement! Other interesting parts include the “superfluous words” section, and also the apparently reassuring fact that none of us will be assasinated, as this only applies to “royalty and seriously prominent members of society”. Sadly we can be “murdered” or “killed”!

Hopefully by thinking about the purpose of a style guide – to help people communicate more effectively with your company’s audiences – you will end up producing better style guides, and therefore better marketing material. Once you have done this, you can think about how style is maintained across different languages: a complex subject, and you may want to talk to us about the pitfalls and problems you will encounter!