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Mini Style Guide*

OK as Far as It Goes

I’m an editor myself, so I was curious about what this book would have to say about style. The book is divided into three parts. The first part is the largest and has to do with good writing—like how to write in plain English, commonly misused words, and copyright—as well as a punctuation guide. The second section looks at manuscript presentation while the final section gives a brief look at the publishing industry today (traditional vs. self-publishing). The appendix at the back has letters and forms that were mentioned in the main text.

The author is Australian. There are sections in the front that discuss British vs. American English, not just the one that is entitled that. I am an American myself, so I found her examples of American English sometimes to be inaccurate, like the discussion about sneakers and gym shoes. At least where I live in the western United States, we rarely call them sneakers; we are more apt to say tennis shoes or tennies. In one example that I thought was rather amusing, she stated that Americans are more prone to turn brand names into verbs, but then the example she gave of such a transformation is one that is never said in America; it’s a British term.

As an editor, I had hopes that this book would be something I could recommend to my clients to help them understand how to approach style and good writing better. I thought the initial sections of the book didn’t directly apply to what most writers want or need today. In the parts that would be most applicable, the descriptions were either too wordy or not explanatory enough. I would have liked this book to have been something an author could just pick up, flip to a particular question about style and find a quick, easy, and applicable answer to get them going on their way.

I think, too, that Americans could be confused by the style used in this book itself. Perhaps we need a streamlined guide similar to this but written by an American editor so that the gap between what the writer should be going for and what the writer reads in the guide isn’t so large.

For a book about style that has been edited, there were inconsistencies about punctuating the examples. Some of these examples seem like complete sentences but didn’t have periods, or full stops as this author would say. I thought that the sections on manuscript presentation and publishing were too short to be of much use.