College relations debuts a 'living, breathing' style guide

By Zac Farber

S is for study away: No hyphen, even when used as a modifier. T is for T-shirt: Always capitalize the T.

Y is for year: Use comma after year when writing a full date.

L is for liberal arts: No hyphen, even when it’s used as an adjective: “a liberal arts environment.”

E is for ellipsis: An ellipsis consists of a space, three consecutive periods, and a space. No spaces between the periods.

What does that spell? Style guide. When Director of Communications Amy Phenix started at Macalester last semester, she learned that there was no comprehensive, existing style guide to enforce stylistic, grammatical and usage rules across campus print and Web publications. In late August, an item appeared in the Daily Piper, touting a new style guide, available online and in a 17-page document, which was based on the Chicago Manual of Style and written by a team of college relations writers and editors organized by Jan Shaw-Flamm.

An institutional style guide is very common among colleges, Phenix said. In the past college relations had a style guide, but it was not available to outside departments and, in recent years, it has been lost.

“The main purpose [of the new guide] was just to improve consistency,” Phenix said. “It helps our staff be more efficient.”

Phenix said that college relations has a loose constructionist philosophy when it comes to the style guide. “Our expectation,” she said, “is that it is a living, breathing document and that as we use it and work with it, when we find things in it that don’t work for the college, we’ll update and revise the guide periodically to reflect the ways that we use language.”

Phenix said the style guide functions as a textual complement to the college’s “identity standards,” a series of protocols that ensures homogenized graphics across the college Web site and its publications.