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What is a house style and does my organisation need one?

23 October 2019 - by Helene Walters-Steinberg

What is a house style and does my organisation need one?

A house style is essentially a set of rules regarding the writing and presentation of the documents produced within your organisation. From a visual perspective, it can set out the font style and size, the colours to be used and the placement of the logo, for example. This ensures that all your documents are consistent and strengthens your brand image. Many large organisations have their own style guide, which must be followed for all documents produced for an external audience, such as white papers, journal and blog articles, and publications. The style guide does not reiterate the basic rules of grammar but provides a reference for which choices to make. This can include topics such as British vs. American spelling, hyphens, smart capitals in titles, abbreviations and italics.


Why are house styles useful for translators?

By providing your translator with your organisation’s style guide, they can ensure that the translation fits in with your current publications. By providing them with a detailed brief of what you are expecting, through the style guide, you can cut down on the number of questions they will need to ask you (thereby speeding up the process) and increase the quality of the final translation.


Where can I find a template style guide?

Right here! I have put together a template style guide based on those I use regularly in my business. It will allow you to clarify your preferences regarding spelling, hyphenation, italics,  numbers, dates, punctuation, references, acronyms and abbreviations, currencies, bulleted lists, and titles and headings.


What if I want a style guide but don’t want to set the preferences myself?

You can always use an existing style manual if you don’t want to take the time to set the individual preferences. Some of the most common style guides for British English are the Oxford Style Manual (formerly known as Hart’s Rules), the Guardian and Observer style guide, the Telegraph style book and The Time Style Guide. For American English, have a look at the AP Stylebook, the Financial Times style guide, the APA Style Guide or the Chicago Manual of Style. Or for a book that can be used for both types of English, see The Economist Style Guide.

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