It’s OK to have your own style, as long as you know what it is
A professional editor may have noticed that my blog is mainly written in AP style with only a few personalized quirks, such as the Oxford (or series) comma. While I edit for major publications and am thus typically confined to AP style in my professional life, I have also written and edited with several in-house style guides. As such, I have adopted my own style when I write for my own business (and books).
The trick is to pick and stick. Pick the style you prefer (Oxford commas, sentence case for subtitles, etc.) and stick to it. Never stray from your own standards and you will achieve an expected excellence that boosts both your readability and credibility.Pick and stick your style and you will achieve an expected excellence that boosts both your readability and credibility. Click To Tweet
Even those that vehemently oppose your comma quirks will be able to overlook them if you are consistent.* Having no rules, or applying rules willy-nilly, reeks of unprofessionalism. If you are diligent with your rules, your work will be seen, appreciated, and shared.
If you work for a larger organization, it behooves you to create an internal style manual, if you don’t already have one. It may be as simple as mine: Follow AP but for these exceptions. It may be a bit more convoluted: Follow NIST first, then AP, then these particulars, use this exact wording and/or acronyms, except when submitting for these publications, etc. The most important and beneficial thing you can do for all concerned (including your successors) is to ensure that your style manual is clear and thorough. It will also help to end arguments. Once it’s in place, you have a reference document to send arguers to for clarification. I recommend a Wiki-style, live document that is easily shareable and editable, so that you may add things as you discover or clarify them.
It benefits you to create such a guide for yourself even as a novelist or memoir writer, particularly if you intend to self-publish. Nothing says “amateur” like inconsistent tense, capitalization, or comma structures!
If you are a ghostwriter, discuss this with your clients. They will definitely have some input on the writing style of their books. If you have an internal manual in place, you can share it with them and simply ask for what changes they desire. Then, because you are familiar with your own style, you only have to mind those changes as you write for them. This certainly makes your life easier, as well as cutting down on editing.
A style guide can and will simplify the writing process and serve as solid foundation for your finished words. If you don’t know where to start, there are plenty available both online and in your local book store. Some I recommend are below:
*Bear in mind that “style” does NOT apply to grammar and spelling errors. No matter how consistently you spell “its” or “their” incorrectly, you will always look like a fool.