What Is A Style Guide?

A style guide is a manual that contains a set of parameters intended to unify the form of writing. A style guide is NOT a dictionary or a glossary. It is, rather, the “road map” used by translators and editors when working for a client.

What is it used for?

The guide can be used for general purposes (client X always writes this and not any other) or to specific publications (client X writes this way for publishing Y, but not Z). It is of great utility and value to technical translations, but can be created, used and/or applied to any translation, regardless of the field.

What’s in a style guide?

In general, there are instructions regarding the mode of use of each category.


* Punctuation: use of commas, semi-colons, ellipsis, colon, quotation marks, umlauts, parentheses, question marks, exclamation marks, hyphens, em spaces, en spaces, etc.;
* Spelling and display of text: uppercase, lowercase, professional titles, honorary titles, corporate positions, geographic names, company names, product names, trademarks, numbers (how to write Roman numerals, fractions, date, time, units of measure, numerical symbols [mathematical and/or scientific]), abbreviations, acronyms;
* Format: fonts, styles, when to use rounding, italics or underlining, symbols in general, trademarks, copyrights, etc.;
* Adaptations: addresses, posters or labels (price), ZIP codes, phone numbers, measurement system, words, references or expressions specific to the culture;
* Localization: terms that refer to an object or product that must be localized depending on the market where it is marketed;
* Others: product codes, tables, graphs, illustrations, lists, verb tenses, footnotes, headers, quotes, bibliography.

Other elements that also are commonly found:

* Customer preferences;
* Lexical options the customer wants to use/avoid;
* Examples of structures that should not be used;
* Common errors (false cognates or equivalents, linguistic interference problems, inconsistencies of register).

The list could be extended much more, because every publication, every job and every client is different. The style guide is essential when giving consistency to the text being translated, and a sine qua non when working in teams. The guide, along with the glossary and translation memory tools are allies, not only for the translators and editors, but also for the customers who want to have a text that is uniform and of a high quality.

(Versión en español: ¿Qué es una guía de estilo de traducción?)