23 July 2009
Reuters has made its journalism handbook available for free download and reading online, for the first time. It provides an interesting overview of how Reuters sees the role of the journalist, and includes a comprehensive guide to Reuters style.
The style guide is vital for creating a consistent style and voice across the output of Reuters' whole workforce. Consistency is important to avoid distracting the reader, and style guides highlight many of the areas where discrepancies can occur which you probably hadn't thought of before.
The guide also highlights mistakes that writers often make, but shouldn't. There's guidance there on the difference between 'advice' and 'advise', and there's an entry on 'advance planning'. You should be able to guess their views on that, but it wouldn't be in the guide if nobody ever wrote it.
I'm a bit of a style guide collector. Every editor has his own pet peeves, and it's fun to spot the stuff that's only there because it drives the editor up the wall. If you haven't written to a style guide before, adopting one will make you a better writer. It will prompt you to think about the words you use, and the ideas they convey, and it will help make your writing invisible so your message can shine through.
Other online style guides include The Guardian style guide and The Times Style Guide. Please let me know if you're aware of any others.