Style guide: How relevant is it in an e-Learning course?

Style guide: How relevant is it in an e-Learning course?

As an instructional designer, it can be frustrating if you encounter an error in your storyboard, or an e-Learning course. And, it is more frustrating when you observe that there is wrong or varying usage of the English language.

So, to ensure consistency, workplaces follow certain style guides that have been created or available online. There is certain information about style guide, which you should know, if you haven’t used it in your e-Learning course.

  • What is a style guide?

A style guide or manual is a document that sets the standards for writing articles or documents. It can be put together by the respective organizations’ representatives (such as communication managers, training managers), or you can follow a standard style guide for practice (The Chicago Manual of style or the Associated Press Stylebook).

  • Why should we have a standard style guide?

As mentioned earlier, consistency is important for quality writing and communications. Having a standard style guide, will help instructional designers, writers, communication managers and editors of an organization, to abide by a common standard. It allows them to follow the same style, language treatment and fonts. Thus, as a whole, it gives a unified image or direction – be it word choice or font style. And, above all, it minimizes confusion of usage and adds a professional touch to it.

  • Where do I find it?

Organizations prepare style guides, both for their internal and external use. Style guides provide information on different aspects such as grammar, usage, punctuation, trademarks and other different parameters. A lot of them are available in the internet. There are some style guides, which the respective organization indigenously develops, to fit their own purpose. A few names of style guides that I can cite, are among those that have garnered importance and are widely preferred:

  • AP Stylebook often referred to as “journalist’s bible”
  • The Gregg Reference Manual
  • The Chicago Manual of Style
  • AMA Manual of Style: The style guide by the editors of JAMA ( Journal of American Medical Association)

Some Standard Guidelines

Style guides act as a preventive measures to evade common mistakes of English language and its usage. Many a times, we come across a dubious situation; where it becomes difficult for us to judge the correct usage. In the corresponding table, some common issues along with their style guide usage are given below:

Serial No.IssuesWhat Style Guide Says:
1.Article Titles and Section Heads• Do not number section heads
2.CapitalizationEthnic, Socioeconomic, and Other Groups:• Capitalize these terms as noted (unless author objects): African American, Afro-American, and Alaska Native.
• Lowercase these terms as noted: aboriginal (where not Australian or Canadian); black; highlander, but Highlander (where referring to Scottish)
3.NumbersSpell out numbers in the following instances:
• One through ten
• Numbers at the beginning of a sentence
– Commas
Use en-dash to show equal relationship
• Use serial commas
• Use a comma to separate the clauses of a compound sentence, but not a compound subject or a compound predicate, unless there are three or more elements
• Use commas around parenthetical elements
5.QuotationsAll published quotations must be cited with year and page number(s)
• (1992:7–8)
6.Tables, Figures, and
Every table and figure should have a callout in running text:(s)

Source: American Anthropological Association (AAA Style guide)

To summarize, in an e-Learning course, where a large chunk of the textual content (both on-screen and audio) need a special treatment, as an established instructional designer, following a standard style guide will help to raise the bar by avoiding basic mistakes.

Therefore, if you haven’t used a style guide in your e-Learning course, it is better to follow a standard one.

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