Creating and Maintaining an In-House Style Guide

The editing team participated in an Editors Canada webinar in January 2017: “Creating and Maintaining In-House Style Guides” presented by Elizabeth Macfie. It was a great webinar, and I’m sure we will discuss her ideas often in 2017 as we improve and revise our OL style guide.

Elizabeth covered her process for building and maintaining a style guide, and she offered some suggestions and examples for how to organize a style guide and how to get admin and peer “buy-in” for the project.

The presentation started with an informal poll of participants, and 73% of the editors in her seminar already have and use an in-house style guide.

Some of the points covered include:

  • Start the revision by agreeing on a statement of goals, list of users, and a distribution method
  • Get explicit support from upper management at the beginning
  • Decide on the project management parameters (e.g., file naming, she recommended Trello to record and track steps in the process)
  • Send out an initial email to all staff with a questionnaire and a “prize” for participation.
    • What is a style guide? Why we use one? What content will be included/excluded? How to contribute to the revision? Etc.
  • Set-up a template that includes the following:
    • Welcome and purpose of the guide
    • Contact info
    • Reference guides (e.g., style manuals, default dictionary)
    • Summary of most looked-up items
    • Summary of changes to the previous guide(s)
    • Perhaps tips on writing for our academic purpose and to an intercultural readership
    • Style choices with examples (the core of the style guide)
    • Appendix (may include examples of style sheets used in specific courses or programs)
  • Review our current guides and decide what is useful and what should be deleted or revised
    • The basis for making these choices are our documents (courses), the reference dictionary and style manuals, academic conventions, our good judgement, Google nGrams or Springer Exemplar
  • Periodically send drafts for approval or input to highlight the new content and review changes
  • Roll-out of new guide: She had two suggestions (1) introduce the new guide at a launch (town hall/memo) meeting with senior management, (2) send it out incrementally in group emails or e-newsletter.
  • Revisions: Update it based on input from users once per year. Ask users what info they look up or what info would be useful for them.