Style Guide

Review by William Petryk

style_guide

By: The Economist

A challenge all senior accountants encounter is the need to communicate.  It does not matter how good the numbers look or what your spreadsheet reveals, the results must be presented in a convincing manner.  Doing this orally is good, but it may not be remembered the day after the meeting.  To be truly effective you must be persuasive ON PAPER.  A well written report can summarize your findings and present a forceful argument to support your conclusions.  I want to recommend two books that can help.  The First is Style Guide.  If it is not in your local bookstore, then look for it at www.economist.com or www.profilebooks.com.  This book is an excellent guide to English language usage.  In alphabetical order it summarizes common uses and mistakes.  For example, the different meanings of affect and effect.  Or the difference between continuous (meaning uninterrupted) and continual (which implies a break).  There is a distinction between forgo(to do without) and forego (to go before).  There are situation in which hyphens can clear ambiguities, such as a little-used car as apposed to a little used-car.  Hyphens are used in some titles such as vice-president but not in deputy director.  The first section of the book includes many of these.

Part II of the book lists differences in American and British English.  There really are distinctions in spelling, syntax, and sentence structure.  Words too can have different meanings.  The British car bonnet is our hood and their boot is a trunk in Canada .  Of particular importance are business terms.  For example, a UK firm will have turnover but a Canadian one will have revenue.  Canadian companies may have capital leases whereas British ones have finance leases. We have inventory, they have stock. 

The final part of the book is a glossary of common abbreviations.  What is remarkable is how many there are.  You may have forgotten that PDF stands for portable document format or that POP3 stands for post office protocol.  These chapters are useful whenever you encounter a term that is not familiar.

The other book I want to recommend is one you may not need to buy.  It is a Manual for Writers by Kate L. Turabian.  This text has been around for decades.  Your grandparents likely used an early edition when they were in school.  Chances are that when you graduated it got packed away along with all your old term papers and can still be found somewhere in your home.  Although it is intended for writers of scholastic works, the rules it contains are still as valid today as when you had to write your first thesis.  The main difficulty is that the topics covered are not easy to look up.  If you need information about spelling or punctuation, you will need to search in the appropriate chapter or be very familiar with its contents.

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