At The Michigan Daily copy desk, we contour articles before they’re presented to the public — or, rather, the Daily Stylebook does. We comb through each article, checking for everything as obvious as getting the facts right and as seemingly insignificant as the use of a semi-colon, pausing repeatedly to consult the Stylebook. The final product stands alone, though stripped of Oxford commas and laced with abbreviated titles, and almost always at least slightly different from how it came in.
Between the reliance on the style guide and the precision of the end product, I’ve realized copyediting an article isn’t so different from copyediting yourself. Think before you speak, check yourself before you wreck yourself — however you want to say it, everyone has a method for filtering their actions and words. We work hard to create and maintain an image for ourselves, constantly building from and referring back to our own personal style guides.
What makes up a style guide, though? Clearly, not everyone follows the same one. And it’s not possible for everyone to follow the same one, since different backgrounds and opportunities determine what different people have been exposed to. But we build onto these when we start to choose our own experiences and communities, and we adjust the way we filter.
One of my chosen communities was the Residential College. My first semester there, I had a nagging worry that the things I was doing and saying weren’t quirky or progressive or eco-conscious enough. These traits, which the people around me seemed to have in abundance, worked themselves into an RC Style Guide, which I worked into my own. I started tailoring specific actions to it, and they’ve become ingrained in me the same way rules regarding when a certain hyphen is appropriate or when to write out numbers have become ingrained in me at the copy desk — I don’t look it up, I just fix it.
Individuality, forward thinking and creativity are all characteristics I found in the RC that I valued highly before college. By purposefully putting myself in a setting where those traits became part of my filter, I’ve been able to strengthen them. In turn, being aware of the way they’ve affected me has allowed me to challenge and deviate from certain ones. Likewise, the Daily uses the AP Style Guide as a base, and though we revere it, it’s been necessary to make certain changes and additions to fit our own Stylebook. We have different guides, specific to the University of Michigan setting, playing into the equation.
The importance of realizing the guidelines we choose for ourselves is not a new idea, and neither is the importance of finding ourselves within them. But they’re both ideas I tend to forget. When I think about why I present and filter myself the way I do, I remember to make adjustments, to pick and choose for my own style guide instead of completely adapting to another. So think about it. What makes up your Stylebook?