Once you’ve got a house style, the challenges are keeping it relevant and getting it used. This week we conclude our discussion with editor Carol Harrison about her experience creating a house style sheet for Financial Reporting & Assurance Standards (FRAS) Canada—the umbrella body representing Canada’s accounting and auditing standard-setting family of three boards and two oversight councils.
Keeping House Style Up to Date
“I have a dedicated section in my personal, hand-written editing log for things I want to add to the next edition style guide,” Harrison says. “Also, I fully expect users to find things that can be improved. To that end, we are thinking of ways to engage staff in helping us [with revisions]. That might happen in about six months, with a second edition [being released] about six months later. So a year after the first edition. I think that is reasonable, given our workloads.”
User testing and involving higher-ups from the outset were integral to Harrison getting buy-in so that people use the house style. Their light-hearted contest helped get users to look at it, too. Making it accessible, however, was key: “It’s available in-house as a PDF with basic navigation and as a Cerlox-bound, four-color print edition.”
Harrison did have a bit of an advantage getting buy-in from colleagues: since the company is mainly concerned with setting and maintaining standards, they wasn’t overly hard to convince them to use a standards guide.
“What’s interesting with working with standard setters,” she says, “is that they understand what setting a standard means; that I’m not just coming up with things out of the blue. If they have a question about, say block quotes, I can cite chapter and verse, so to speak, from Chicago, just as they can quote from the standards [FRAS] produce. Also, as a result of this, people come to me with all sorts of grammar and usage questions. I think that shows a level of trust, which is hugely important when editing someone else’s words.”
The official title of the FRAS house style is Standards Group Style Guide: Web and Technical Documents.