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3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars

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on 2 January 2011
I'm almost scared to write a review of Guardian Style (or guardianstyle, a title style which they should abandon because it's no longer very stylish), or indeed of anything else, having perused it and scored about a 20% failure rate on all those bleeding obvious traps I thought I'd so cleverly avoided over the years, and that only the ill-educated could possibly continue to get wrong. It combines 1950s schoolmarm (I'm sure that must be unacceptable for all kinds of reasons), Stephen Pinker's beloved language mavens, some amusing and rather touchingly resigned pieces on usage that is just too complicated for most of us and which we should therefore abandon to professional philosophers (`begging the question' is a good example), and an assorted pile of linguistic and spelling horrors that have slimed under the door and into the everyday writing of most smart alecs, including myself (cusp, immaculate conception - how could we have got that so wrong for so long? - epicentre, lay waste ...). The list of cliches (no accent please) is bound to include several that you thought were nothing of the sort - actually rather clever, really - and the glib, sloppy, pompous and woolly are sought out and their necks shaken vigorously.

Sadly, it seems as if the motley Guardian writing crew never seems to learn these lessons (which is always encouraging for us amateurs), but surely this is an area where technology could be the salvation of the daily corrections column: shouldn't all copy be automatically fed through the style guide, to emerge wholesome, non-judgmental, comma-perfect and with everyone's titles, in all their gruesome complexity, fully consistent?

By turns it charmed, intrigued and frightened me. Keep it by you to slyly consult when you get that feeling you've just written something that's not quite right, which should happen more often once you've read it through. And for those who think that Guardian Style is the newspaper equivalent of military intelligence etc, I suggest trying to get through the first 20 pages of the current Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition, no less) to sample its unremitting head-banging neutral tedium and misery, numbered paragraphs and all. I almost guarantee you won't make it, and then you can be truly grateful for this delicious slim volume of serious language fun.
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on 10 August 2017
No arguments about style for budding journalists
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on 12 December 2007
While it sounds dry and obvious to say that this is the guide to grammar and word usage for the newspaper The Guardian, that is what this is.

However, the result is far far more compelling and enjoyable than the description. This book is like a mad cross between the 'Grammar is important' ethos of Eats Shoots and Leaves and the random fun of Schott's Miscellany and is better than either.

While I could continue to describe the contents of the book, citing my favourite entries, whatever I say is going to sound boring. Trust me, if you enjoy language you will enjoy this book a lot (not alot).
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on 12 August 2015
For some time I have wanted a style guide that matches my own preferences. A single book to rule them all, and to replace my own rapidly-growing style document. Every time I pick a style guide up and flick through it I'll find an entry recommending something that looks inelegant or counter-intuitive or inconsistent. The point of a style guide is to standardise things; by standardizing a style, you promote a standard for language.

After flicking through Guardian Style I thought my search was over. At first glance it seemed sensible and comprehensive. And it is the guide for a Manchester newspaper, which earns bonus marks. So I bought it. Today I finished reading it from cover to cover, as is my wont. Sadly, although often interesting, it turns out that my search must continue for a style guide that I can accept.

What made me unhappy with Guardian Style?

Firstly it was the lack of internal consistency, meaning that they end up needing 50 entries when a single rule applied throughout would have been much more … stylish. And required only one entry, saving a lot of time. Here are some examples of this inconsistency:
Acronyms and capitalisation. They use lower case for search engine optimisation, but SEO for the acronym. So you would think that a term which is capitalised would also have capitals for the acronym, but that isn't the case: the Guardian uses Soca (not SOCA) as the acronym for the Serious Organised Crime Agency. Some acronyms are not capitalised at all e.g. sim for subscriber identity module. See also their entries for Wap, Unesco, UNCHR. Sometimes capitalised terms get lower case acronyms, and vice versa. There is no rule as to whether acronyms are fully caps, no caps, or initial caps.
No consistency in what types of nouns are capitalised. The guide capitalises seas, oceans, universities and museums; but not rivers, currencies, national parks or hotels. Stock Exchange is capitalised if it is in London, but not for those in other cities/countries.
Adjectives derived from places: it seems to be random what the style guide recommends. Parma ham, Worcestershire sauce: but scottish terrier, welsh dresser, yorkshire pudding.
Accents: résumé but cafe, soiree.
Proper nouns sometimes get capitals, sometimes not e.g. world wide web and web 2.0 (should be caps, since the World Wide Web is a proper noun).
The trend to have more and more exceptions to basic rules does not simplify things: instead it means that there are more exceptions to learn, and it just gets more complicated. (Which, I suppose, then justifies the need to buy a style guide...)

For me the question WHY? seemed to leap from the page in neon. I wanted more explanation as to why they chose one option over another. There may be a good reason for some of the cases, but the person buying this book is generally not party to it. And therefore the case for the book as something educative is weakened.

There are omissions too. Many common causes of confusion are not addressed at all, such as differences between US and UK English usage. For example, the completely different definitions of a billion; also the different meanings attached to "first floor" in each country.

A repeated ruling of the style guide which I found to be irritatingly fussy was to ignore how description works. For example, saying someone is a homosexual (noun) is the same as saying someone is homosexual (adjective). Homosexual is one of many words that can function in both roles. But Guardian Style repeatedly states that they are not the same, and you must never use the first option when talking about people's preferences or abilities, because the Guardian feels it somehow implies a person is ONLY that thing, and therefore demeans them. This is silly. Saying Byron was a poet, or that I am a librarian, or that Simon is a blue-eyed man, is in no way implying that the noun is the only thing they are. It is just one feature or relevance to whatever is being discussed. To claim otherwise seems to be based on a misunderstanding about what it means to state a fact about a thing: it is certainly not a claim that it is the only fact. The guide comes across as prissy and overcomplicated in cases like this.

Lastly, the guide's editors seem to have an aversion to full stops. The last sentence in every entry is missing this important piece of punctuation. This leads to unintended comedy on page 336 when the writer Ariane Sherine is quoted as saying: "I long to live in a world where omitting full stops from the ends of sentences is deemed a social faux pas akin to walking around with your penis hanging out of your trousers." Except, on the page, the final full stop is omitted as per the style of this style guide.
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on 12 June 2014
This book sets out to give the guidelines for journalists writing for The Guardian. IMO it's not very good. The main problem is that it is compiled as a set of entries in alphabetical order but many of the entries are just too skimpy. By comparison The Economist Style Guide gives more explanation for its rules and is IMO much better. And if you are really serious about writing well, then you'd do better to get either The New Oxford Style Manual or The Chicago Manual of Style.
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on 16 April 2009
For a foreigner or an English stududent, in order to better your skills, I recomend to use this book. It is a good, and at some points funny, way to deep inside the Enlish language. In addition, I will personally start the university in Manchester, and I am originally from Spain. That could be a disadvantage but not for me nor my interests because with this book, I will make my understanding of the language with more accuracy.
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on 1 February 2009
An honest, readable directory of how to write well. The Guardian encourages accurate writing, and gives excellent advice on abbreviations, spelling, punctuation and other necessities. While I have a few issues with The Guardian (why do they insist on calling Bombay 'Mumbai', the local right-wing nationalist name for the city, while continuing to call Myanmar 'Burma'?) but generally, the guide is consistent and sensible.

The Guardian has always encouraged intelligent journalism, and this volume not only contributes to good style, it is also the sort of book you can study for hours.

A great guide. Please Daily Mail journalists, read this. Not only will it make your articles more readable, it will also improve your general knowledge. Then maybe one day, you could get a job with a proper, grown-up newspaper!
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on 15 December 2010
I always like to contrast media style guides with the actual practice of journalists.

Style guides, as it were, are a mark of aspiration. What comes out in actual practice is another thing altogether.

The Guardian has a very strong brand image but in actual fact its journalists come from all over the shop. Newcomers have to assimilate Guardian style very quickly but that is what you are paid to do as a journalist. Next day some may be off to a tabloid. They may assume a new writing personna.

This leads me to wonder what standing this document has in the actual world of the Guardian because there is more stylistic diversity within the paper and web site than David Marsh's book suggests. If you want to know where the internal tensions are within the Guardian look to see where aspiration does not match actual practice.
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on 14 December 2012
It doesn't matter if you're in a word-based trade or still in education, this is an absolutely essential purchase for anyone who needs to write good current English. It's clear, easy to follow, and full of really good advice about avoiding cliches.
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on 21 January 2013
I agree with all the praise for the style guide. But I do wish they hadn't chosen to print it on that horrible scratchy paper that sets my fingertips on edge every time I consult it.
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