Over the last few weeks, I’ve spent evenings and weekends art-working Childhood Remixed, an academic journal that I designed last year for its inaugural launch. The journal was the idea of a colleague of mine at University Campus Suffolk, Allison Boggis, and along with Darryn Thompson, both from the School of Applied Social Sciences, we put out a call for papers for the second edition around October, giving plenty of time for peer review and art-working before publication at the end of February. The great difference with this journal to similar publications, other than it being designed specifically as an online resource, is that it is interdisciplinary and takes submissions that are related to Childhood from all the different Schools at the university, including image based work and short stories, alongside the more traditional academic paper.
As you can guess, with the deadline looming for the second edition, I’ve been spending a lot of time copying different Word document text into an InDesign file, and painstakingly re-formatting everything. Next year, I must set up an InDesign style sheet to ease this, although a style sheet won’t in itself dramatically reduce the hours needing to be spent correcting copy. One of the big issues has been referencing lists, for which many of the submissions don’t seem to be entirely consistent. I’ve had to go through them all to put them back into the correct format that the authors wrote them in as underlining and italics get lost in virtual ether between Microsoft and Adobe products. This isn’t to mention that although Harvard referencing is requested of all submissions, there are different peculiarities within the Harvard system, and not knowing the titles the sources came from, means I’m left to other people’s interpretations.
Likewise, there is an inconsistency in how people set out their text. Some key in a different number of spaces when starting a new sentence; awareness of the differences between hyphens, and en and em dashes; bespoke subheadings and lists—all created to the writers’ individual preference. This all takes a serious RSI inducing amount of time to correct and ensure the document is consistent throughout.
But regardless of my trials and tribulations in pulling this journal together visually, one thing that I have a renewed sense of admiration for throughout this process is style guides. For Childhood Remixed, I’ve been using Guardian Style, by David Marsh and Amelia Hodsdon. If you have any interest in the written English language, whether you are laying out text or not, this is a fascinating read, and at times, it has needed to be a constant companion. And the Guardian have been at this a long time—the first guide was published in 1928—so they should know what they are doing. You can download a pdf of their first guide here. It is still going strong today and as the 21st century advances, they have even got a Twitter feed for instant style advice on the go. However, they don’t seem to have a style guide for how to grammatically conduct yourself in your Tweets.
I first came across the concept of style guides many years ago, when Creative Review published extracts from theirs in an issue of the magazine. The fact that it stated that numbers were first supposed to be written in full between one–nine, and there-on could be displayed as numerals; i.e. 10, 11, 12, 13 etc, fascinated me. Who sat down and decided this stuff, I wondered?
In many good guides, you will find commonality, and the basic common usage examples are pretty easy to remember and help to denote good practice. But it is always worth having a copy of a style guide, regardless of which, next to your desk when typesetting anything for instant access to more complex grammatical and punctuation conundrums. The latest edition of Guardian Style is available to buy here.
As society moves away more and more from the printed page into publishing online, issues of accessibility and use of language become more complex, especially for those creating information for a huge demographic such as the population of the United Kingdom. Therefore, if you are interested in such things, the style guide, or ‘Content Principles’ as they like to call it, of GOV.UK are an interesting snapshot of design and written language considerations in the 21st century.
You can read this guide here.
All of this pondering on style guides only goes to suggest that I probably need to write one for Childhood Remixed. Having written brand guidelines for visual identities I’ve designed before, I know that this can take as long, if not longer, than designing a visual identity in the first place, so for a publication that only comes around once a year, I think I’ll just stick to The Guardian’s.
Number of Guardian Style consultations: 3
Number of Chambers English Pocket Thesaurus consultations: 1
Number of Google consultations: 2