Which style guide rules do you break, and why?

Rules are meant to be broken—or so your clients probably insist.

Ragan.com readers love their style guides. As writers and editors, we rely on style guides to set and enforce standards for our company (or client) content or publications: Is health care one word or two? Do we use serial commas? Do we abbreviate the names of states?

Though the styles guides we use (the Associated Press Stylebook, the Chicago Manual of Style, or even an in-house style guide) might have conflicting guidelines, without these guides, our content would be a hot mess.

As much as we love our style guides, there are times when we are forced to put them aside due to the personal preferences of a client, boss, CEO, or board member. No matter how many times or how many different ways you try to explain the rules, these people insist on having the content their way. Someone’s “pet peeve” overrules sensible writing guidelines. It’s the clown acts running the circus.

Case in point, the AP Stylebook rule to capitalize titles that appear before names, but not after names, has caused me nothing but trouble. Even though we incorporated this rule into our own house style guide years ago, we still get pushback on it. People—particularly those at the highest levels—insist their titles should always be capitalized.

So, about a year ago we acquiesced. Beleaguered, out of patience, and under the guise of “choosing our battles,” we changed our rules. We now always capitalize titles.

I’m hoping we aren’t the only ones who’ve done this. Readers, what stylebook guidelines do you most often ignore at the insistence of a boss or client?

Laura Hale Brockway is a medical writer and editor from Austin, Texas. Read more of her work at www.impertinentremarks.com.


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