Secret writer’s tools – The G&O Style Guide

Pacman or Pac-Man? Phony or phoney? Post-modern or postmodern?

At some point in your writing you’re going to need a style guide. Many publishers use the definitive Chicago Manual of Style, but it’s weighty — and expensive! Online tools are quicker — and cheaper — and the best general style guide I’ve come across is the one published by the UK’s Guardian and Observer newspapers. Entries are often short and to the point:

GuardianStyle-zero  and sometimes amusing:


The front page  of the guide is a little confusing if you want to look something up quickly. Better to bookmark the A page and go from there.


Here you’ll find:

  • A style-related quote. (There’s a different one on each page, indexed to the letter concerned, from Aristotle to Zeno by way of Vampire Weekend and Yoda.)
  • A plug for the Guardian’s style guide on Twitter, worth following, if only for gems like this:


  • A clickable A-Z index (much more useful than their homepage).
  • An illustration of one of the phrases therein.
  • And the meat and potatoes, the entries themselves.

The guide is slightly English-centric. You’ll find references to the 11-plus and freshers’ week, but it’s well maintained and bang up to date.



It’s also a great “grazing” resource. Take these two entries, for example:


Or this—proof that even tired cliches can still be made to work:


(PS: It’s Pac-Man, phoney and postmodern.)

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