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How Important Are Style Guides?

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  • This is going to go against the desire of the OP, i think, but i think a distinction needs to be made between "readable english", and proper grammar. Even in this post, you can notice that, when i write in forums, i take a few liberties when it comes to the typed word. I know i generally don't capitalize the letter "I" when speaking of myself, unless it also happens to be the start of a new sentence, i also generally don't use the apostrophe with contractions, unless it's going to cause a misunderstanding, such as with I'll, or ill, two very different things. it also seems like i've improved on that habit, as i'm doing it in this post, and not really thinking about typing the apostrophe.

    Then, there is what i would consider, highly unreadable, or unprofessional typed words, ya kno, the ones that rplc almos evry othr ltr so u dnt hve a clu wat their tryng to typ? an u dnt kno if their just ignrnt, or doing it on purpose.

    Translation:

    (Then there is what i would consider highly unreadable, or unprofessional typed words, ya know, the ones that replace almost every other letter, so you don't have a clue what they're trying to type? And you don't know if they're just ignorant, or doing it on purpose?)

  • Saying "Where are you?" would be just fine. I majored in English: Writing but I'm still no expert, and I'm not usually so harsh on myself when I'm blogging or in a forum. I will occasionally drop 'lol' into a post and "readable" English is nowhere near grammatically correct. I say as long as the person below your post can read yours it is all good!

    However, when writing a resume, term paper or formal letter to a superior--or when writing creatively, which I highly enjoy and reccomend for fun--try not to make too many errors and whatever you do don't rely on "Spell and Grammar Check" on any word processor. Usually Google will give you a pretty good runthrough of MLA and other style guides that can tell you whether or not something is a huge grammatical error or not.

  • Shawn Gordon:

    The other thing I notice a lot of is "Off of the table", as opposed to the correct "off the table". ...

    Still, I'd like to see a style guide implemented or at least a format guide, but I'm not going to press the site about it. Most people come here for leisure, apparently.

    You mean, a style guide for GI users to follow? I think someone could create a style guide for that, but I don't think anyone would really use it. ^^

    Personally, "off of" is one of my grammar peeves. Also, "because" vs. "since" ("since" is only used when you're referring to time, not for a reason!).

    ______________________________
    bibbity-bloggity-boo

  • Good writing is good writing no matter where you learned it.  Style guides can be a good reference for some but if others don't use it, it's not a big deal as long as their writing is still solid.  Normal spelling and grammar needs to be adhered to but as long as you're not a moron and you are entertaining, your writing is probably fine.

  • In all honesty if GIO were to implement a style guide, I believe that there would be a decent number of people that would follow it.  There are after all, a lot of bloggers that write very good pieces on here and having a style guide would only improve the overall quality of the site.

    That being said, I believe that it is something that we as a community would have to come up with.

  • Lawyers have to take continuing legal education classes (15 hours worth a year, which is a lot worse than it sounds).  One particular class I took about a year ago was on the subject of Advanced Legal Writing.  Lawyers all took legal writing in law school, but the class is usually horrible.  My legal writing text actually included a heading that read "Passive Voice Should Never Be Used," which, of course, in addition to being wrong, is highly ironic.  Anyway, that CLE class was five hours long but infinitely more useful than my year-long class from law school.  The presenter was a man named Bryan Garner, who has his J.D. but is really a lexicographer/linguist.  He proposes that it takes 10,000 hours of practice for a writer to become truly competent.  I'm not there yet.

    The fact of the matter is that there are "right" and "wrong" ways to write.  Though many grammar, usage, and style rules are not ironclad and are subject to many exceptions, I find it's generally beneficial for non-expert writers to follow these "suggestions."  For this reason, I wouldn't advocate starting sentences with conjunctions, even though the "rule" against this is not really a rule at all.  I digress.

    Within arms reach of me right now are the following books:

    The Chicago Manual of Style

    The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style (by Mr. Garner)

    The Elements of Style by Strunk and White

    Writing with Style by John R. Trimble

    A legal dictionary (which doubles as a pretty good standard dictionary)

    Admittedly, I don't refer to these books nearly as often as I should, but these books are extremely important to my writing.

    Mr. Garner recommends the following four practices to become a better writer:

    Subscribe to the Economist (which is expensive) and the New Yorker (which isn't) (and read them)

    Read one book on writing per quarter (every three months)

    Write a letter, by hand, every day

    Purchase (and use!) two usage dictionaries

    My above, disjointed, thoughts aside, I'm not in favor of strongly enforcing style suggestions on these forums, though I would love to see them more strongly adhered to by all "casual" publications, including Game Informer.  I strive to write with correct usage and style on these forums, but that's my choice, and I'll admit I've never consulted a style guide to author a post here.  Enforcing such rules just seems to draconian to me.

    http://www.ericchad.com

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