«Return to Blog List Writers: How to Referee Style Rules
During the NFL playoffs, referees’ calls can ultimately decide a win or loss.
Their job is to know the rules and make sure that players follow them. But sometimes their calls inspire boos from the coaches, players and fans.
Freelance copwriters are not unlike referees.
On a project, writers are often in the role of referee – enforcing STYLE rules.
Depending on the types of projects you work on, anywhere from two to maybe 8 people may be reviewing your thoughtfully written copy.
There’s at least one marketing manager, if not more, and perhaps a PR or sales person. Then there’s maybe a product manager.
If you work on customer case studies, an additional three to four people at the customer’s organization may review your story.
Chances are, there will be differences of opinion about whether “website” is one word or two, whether titles should be capitalized or whether a comma goes before the last “and.”
To solve these differences – and maintain consistency across all communications – you need a set of rules.
And if you’re the writer, be the editorial style referee.
But how do you do so diplomatically?
Throw the book at ’em
Newspapers and magazines have long followed style guidelines, whether Associated Press style, Chicago Manual of Style or their own versions. Companies need such guidelines as well for all their communications.
Freelance writers should usually follow the style of the companies they write for, unless those companies have no specific style guidelines.
If the organization doesn’t have its own editorial guidelines, bring your own style. When you send first drafts to your contacts, let them know that you follow style X.
When questions come up during the editing process, simply refer to the specific style guidelines as your reasoning for doing something like leaving out that extra comma before the last “and” in a sentence.
Several companies I’ve written for over the years have had their own style guidelines. They set down in writing exactly how they want certain aspects of their copy to go.
In many cases, their style is a hybrid. They mostly follow a standard style guide but have modifications for their communications.
Learn and follow those guidelines closely.
Earn your stripes
As you merge edits from multiple reviewers, make sure that the copy follows the established style. If someone makes changes that conflict with those rules, just let them know you follow company style.
It’s like saying, these are the rules we play by on our turf.
It can be hard to be a ref, but it’s part of the writer’s job.
Have you ever been boo-ed for refereeing edits?