Writing in Style

Have you ever had an argument with one of your colleagues over whether this word or that should be capitalized or whether to use a comma or not? Before you come to blows with your office mates, remember this: you both may be right.

There are many questions about grammar that can be answered in several ways, for example the capitalization of certain words, how to write time, or whether to use courtesy titles. These types of grammatical questions are called style questions. In most cases, there are several correct answers. The most important thing is consistency — within all your correspondence and documents, within your department and across your organization.

Most dictionaries contain a basic style guide, but more comprehensive guidance on style questions can be found in style manuals. There are several well-respected style manuals available; which one you select may depend on the type of writing you do. Most manuals will tell you how to cite other works within your document and give you some guidance on capitalization, italicization and punctuation. If you do very specialized writing, such as legal writing or grant writing, be sure to have an additional style manual that will guide you on the standards for that industry. Below are just a few of the commonly used style books available today.


The Elements of Style: A Style Guide for Writers


The AMA Style Guide for Business Writing

Style Guide: For Business and Technical Communication


United States Government Printing Office. Style Manual.


The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation

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