Appendix A - The Document Standard  pp. 128-130

The Document Standard

By Paul Coombs

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Why have a standard?

You may have disagreed with some of the rules defined in this book. Matters such as the punctuation of bulleted lists, the use of commas and the acceptability of Latin abbreviations are not universally standardised, and the conventions for punctuation and spelling vary in the different English-speaking countries. You may also have noticed that some of the text in this book does not adhere to the rules I have defined. This is because the Cambridge University Press has its own guidelines, which override my personal preferences. What matters is consistency. Books issued by the Cambridge University Press must be produced to high, uniform standards, which supplant the individual conventions used by each author and outweigh any arguments about whose convention is ‘right’.

Every organisation – not just publishers like the Cambridge University Press – needs a standard that defines a ‘house style’ for the appearance and conventions of the documents it issues. Such a standard is often called a “Style Guide”. I dislike this term. Firstly, it is not a “guide”; it is a mandatory standard – no exceptions. Secondly, it is not about “style”, which to me is more about the way words are used than about conventions for terminology, punctuation and so on. So I call it a “Document Standard”, which makes its function clear.

Usually, there will be a different standard for each type of document that your organisation may produce: letters, technical documentation, user manuals and so on.