What our proofreading course learners discover about style

Some of our proofreading course learners get frustrated because the Guardian Style Guide is not definite about the use of chair/chairman/chairwoman.

It merely says: “Chair is acceptable in place of chairman.” But one of our online proofreading course learner told us: “I would not interpret this as meaning ‘required usage’.”

We agree – the Guardian Style Guide is unusually vague on this issue. It doesn’t tell you which decision to take.

So what do you do?

We tell our proofreading and editing learners that if a style guide is unclear, they should check how the item is normally used in practice

So for instance, if you search the Guardian’s website for ‘chair’ you will see that it is usually used instead of ‘chairman’ or chairwoman’.

In contrast, if you search for ‘chairman’ or chairwoman’, you will find that those terms are usually preferred to ‘chair’.

Most style guides have omissions, or rules that are unclear, and searching previous use is the most reliable solution.

See our proofreading courses