A style book - what it is used for, who makes them, for whom, and why.

What is a stylebook? What is it used for?

A stylebook is most often used in the journalism world, as a supplement to a dictionary. It can contain guidelines on punctuation, spelling, and lots of other things. A stylebook's main objective is to make sure a publication (say a newspaper) uses styles consistently throughout the whole newspaper

Who has stylebooks? Who makes them?

In general, all media have stylebooks. the entries in the stylebooks can have:

  • Political points, for example a certain way to describe something. i.e, the Reuters news agency always referst to the Taliban as "Afghanistan's ruling Taliban" whereas the IRNA (Islamic Republic News Agency) always will refer to them as the "Taliban regime". These things exist to make sure that the slant (and to a certain degree, the connotations) are consistent, no matter which one of the journalists or correspondents are reporting.
  • Punctuation points Is there a period after "US" in "US. Government"? Where do I use an em-dash? Am I to use one or two spaces after every sentence? When do I use a semi colon? There are lots of these small dilemmas for journalists, and the style book will clean them out.
  • Abbreviation rules (From the AP stylebook: Spell out United Nations when used as a noun. When used as an adjective (i.e UN headquarters, UN officials), use the abbreviation). Is it allowed to use lowercase abbrevations? Is it "am" or "a.m." ? Or maybe even "am."? Is it FBI or F.B.I.? etc.
  • Word choice Do we use "Theater" or "Theatre"? Is it a lift or an elevator? Is it a Pyjama or a Pajama? Are they pants or trousers?

This goes on and on and on, leaving next to nothing to your own imagination.

For who are the stylebooks?

Stylebooks are for everybody involved in a particular media. Journalists, copy editors, news editors etc etc. As mentioned, the sole purpose is to make sure there is a consistency throughout a publication, news agency or radio/TV station.

Are all stylebooks the same?

No. There won't be huge variations between the stylebooks, but some difference there will be. For news agencies, for example: Some news agencies will put the capital of the country (or state) on everything they send out; If a murder happens in Liverpool, the wire from the news agency will still read "Reuters, (London)" while others will read "DPA, (Liverpool)".

Okay - this was a bit confusing, SharQ. Can't you come up with some snappy, easy to understand recap?

I can try..

A dictionary tells you:

  • How to spell the words
  • What words to use

A stylebook tells you:

  • Which words to use
  • How to use them

Hey! But that sounds like a brilliant idea! Shouldn't we have something like a stylebook that here on E2?

I wish... :)


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