This is a free-to-use, general-purpose editorial style guide designed to help people write consistently and correctly, especially in organisations that have multiple content contributors.
As a copyeditor and writer I’ve produced many editorial style guides for my clients, and they have a lot in common (the style guides, not the clients). I’m not referring here to brand voice. Your brand voice is something else. I’m referring here to the mechanics of style.
The nuts and bolts of editorial style can be much the same from one publication or website to another. Things like which words to capitalise, how to punctuate, how to write dates, times and places consistently, and how to make sure you don’t misuse or misspell the kinds of words that tend to get misused or misspelled and end up losing credibility.
That’s why I’ve compiled this generic style guide – for my clients, for myself, and for you if you find it useful. Feel free to use bits of it or all of it. Feel free to copy it. It’s not an original piece of work to which I claim copyright. Glossaries and usage guides aren’t supposed to be original; they’re supposed to bring consistency. I acknowledge my main sources below.
I hope this one-size-fits-most guide is useful to you. However, if yours is a big organisation with many content authors, a great deal of specialist vocabulary, and/or a need to take extreme care with the words you use, you might need a style guide tailored to your needs.
Contact me to commission a customised style guide.
- Writing style
How to use plain language and keep it simple without seeming to dumb things down, and how to structure your content for ease of on-screen reading.
- Grammar and syntax
Including capitalisation, numbers, and punctuation: how to make consistent use of use quotation marks, hyphens and dashes, apostrophes, Oxford commas, and more.
- Time and place
How to write dates, times, addresses, and foreign place names.
- Word list
Capitalisation and punctuation, words with two spellings, frequently confused words, words to avoid, correct forms of company names and trademarks.
I’ve drawn on several sources including The Economist Style Guide, the Mailchimp Content Style Guide, the Telegraph style book, the Guardian and Observer style guide, and the Government Digital Service style guide.
This is a UK English style guide. Much of its content will also be relevant to US and other versions of English. But there are of course differences of vocabulary, spelling and usage. Other versions of English are beyond the scope of this guide.
Feedback and comments
This is a work in progress. I welcome feedback, contributions, comments, constructive criticism, and corrections if anything seems wrong. Please contact me.