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Saturday, March 9, 2013

Here's one that someone else thought of earlier | On developing an editorial style

A confession: I am planning to steal from the Telegraph style guide
That's the subhead for this Mind Your Language blog article by David Marsh of The Guardian.

He writes:
Style guides are the one area of journalism, I think, where plagiarism is not frowned on. I am more than happy for others to copy from or adapt the Guardian's guidelines and I imagine most style guide editors feel the same: we are all in the business of trying to persuade others to write and edit the way we do, so we can hardly complain if other publications do just that. In fact it's a compliment.
Though I partially question his statement that "plagiarism is not frowned on," I'd say he's correct that style manual editors study, value, use and adapt the preferences of other style manuals. After all, with notable exceptions, the editorial styles of various manuals and publications don't differ all that much. 

How many ways are there to list the uses of the comma, for example, or describe the difference between it's and its?

I know that in development of Garbl's Editorial Style and Usage Manual--and its predecessors in my workplace--the Associated Press Stylebook was (and still is) a major source of inspiration. I name it on the home page of my manual. 

But I also review and consider the advice in other references--especially when AP is unclear, doesn't cover a topic, or is alone in its preferences. I also value the advice of Chicago Manual of Style, the Gregg Reference Gude, and Garner's Modern  American Usage.

I questioned Marsh's approval of plagiarism because I don't think it's a best practice--or legitimate--to copy from other style manuals all the entries and especially their examples. Style manual developers must choose, adapt and create entries and examples that meet the needs and interests of their particular publication or organization. (Actually, I don't think Marsh supports total plagiarism; he's "happy for others to copy or adapt" (emphasis added) his publication's guidelines.)

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Marsh's article is featured today, March 9, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Style: Write Choices, available at the Editorial Style tab above and by free email subscription.

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