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Work it baby, work it...* or how to perfect your style.

Posted on 15th December 2010

The importance of style and its role in your writing is quite fundamental, whether you're writing university essays, business reports or an autobiography. It doesn't have to be daunting and you don't even necessarily have to write your own style guide (there are plenty to use for free online), but having one to refer to should help you retain consistency throughout your document.

Some examples of decisions to make, neither of which are right or wrong, but it is better if you choose one and stick with it:

  • Ageing v aging
  • Judgement v judgment
  • Learnt v learned or spelt v spelled
  • 12 or 24 hour clock
  • Writing from one to nine in full and 10 and above as numbers (or ten also written out, 11 and above as numbers)
  • Full time or full-time (retain consistency then with part time/part-time)
  • -ise or -ize endings (though UK spellings now allow for both, traditionally -ise is the UK version and -ize is used in the US).
There are plenty more scenarios where two spellings can be used, this is just a selection to get you thinking. Once you have these issues clarified in your own head, it will be much easier to retain the style when you write.

You can also use the reference sheet to write any key grammar points or spellings on that you know you regularly get wrong, for example:

  • Affect v effect
  • Fewer v less
  • Principal v principle
  • Compliment v complement
  • Dependant v dependent.
Just because I am a proofreader doesn't mean I don't get confused with the above sometimes too - it's all about learning which words are easy to confuse and making sure you double check that you've chosen the correct one each time.

Once you have created your style guide, it will make all future writing much easier, not only for you, but also if you get someone else to check it.

Ensuring standardisation within a text is something most proofreaders do, highlighting that even in the age of technology, a proofreader is still more than just a spell checker.

*A random cultural reference to Pretty Woman probably wasn't what you expected from a proofreader, was it?

Written by Kate Haigh.