Tuesday, October 13, 2009

weekly writing coach: standards editor?

What are your writing standards? I don't just mean which stylebook you follow, but whether you have standards for your writing and monitor your work over time to make sure you're maintaining your standards. Even a quarterly review may turn up changes in your style, usage, grammar or spelling that have crept in slowly, and offer you the chance to correct them, or to consider the need to revise your standards.

This post from the New York Times's standards editor makes the case for why the paper (and you) should periodically review your work--in this example, to determine whether writers are using colloquial terms too often. Here's a sample:
Many blogs have a more conversational tone than a straight news story. But if every blog is peppered with colloquialisms, slang, jargon or fad words, the fresh effect is likely to “curdle,” as The Times’s stylebook puts it.
If you're writing as part of a communications team, consider pulling a small group together to meet quarterly to review written products across the team and then report to your teammates on what you noticed. One example noted in the Times: use of the term "horticulturalist," about which the editor says, "Look it up, save a syllable: it’s 'horticulturist.' We’ve had this wrong more than 200 times over the years." Rather than wait till it gets to that point, consider a periodic review.

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