Copy Matters: Style Guides

Copy Matters: Style Guides

April 9, 2012 by

This is part eleven in our Copy Matters series.

Words are tricky and the English language is hardly simple and logical. Even when you get past the not-so-simple rights and wrongs of writing, there are more decisions you have to make that don’t always have easy answers.

  • When do you abbreviate months?
  • Do you use p.m., PM or pm to denote the time of day?
  • Do you use the Oxford comma?
  • Should “scripture” be capitalized?
  • What about pronouns referring to God?
  • Is it St. Paul or Saint Paul?
  • Do you write out numbers (three) or use figures (3)?
  • Is it “megachurch” or “mega-church”?

Welcome to the world of style. Any good writer will quickly the see the need for answers to these questions. There’s not always a right or wrong answer, as long as you’re consistent. For the love of all things holy, be consistent.

And to be consistent, you’re going to need a style guide.

You should start by picking up the AP Stylebook. It’ll give you a good start to many of the basic style questions. It’s nice to start with a recognized authority.

But you’ll need to go a step further and create your own style guide for issues specific to your church. We’ve talked about creating a style guide before, so I won’t go into loads of detail. But do it. It can start as a simple Google doc you share with your team and continually add to. It doesn’t have to be fancy. But it will help you be more consistent and that will make your writing more professional. Any time you come up with a style question and make a decision, add it to your guide. It’s your new best friend.

If you need some help, here are a few examples from other churches:


Getting Started: Copy Matters - "Bad writing tries too hard to impress."

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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3 Responses to “Copy Matters: Style Guides”

  • Rommel
    April 9, 2012

    Thanks for this supplement of guides in technical writing. Although I do agree that it isn’t always about which is right and wrong, but some definitely has its uses and can make the difference. Things like the oxford comma and knowing when to abbreviate. Anyway, thanks again and nice blog! P.S – Yes, your marketing sucks.

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