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I don't like prefixing all my answers and pontifications about English usage with IMHO.

Where can I find a reasonably well recognized style guide that is online that I can refer people to?

My first choice, chicagomanualofstyle.org, is for paid subscribers only.

(Emphasis on well recognized, personally, I mostly do technical and office writing)

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6 Answers 6

In the same domain as The Chicago Manual of Style (users working "with magazines, newsletters, corporate reports, proposals, electronic publications, Web sites, and other nonbook or nonprint documents"), you also have:

The Economist Style Guide

Clarity of writing usually follows clarity of thought. So think what you want to say, then say it as simply as possible.
Keep in mind George Orwell's six elementary rules ("Politics and the English Language", 1946):

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut out a word, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
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I find most of Orwell's rules to be ridiculous, with the exception of #6. –  JSBձոգչ Aug 11 '10 at 16:40
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The Economist is a good choice, it is well known for getting to the point. You might find this related blog post interesting: andreaskluth.org/2009/10/22/the-economists-coequal-humour –  Jon Hadley Aug 11 '10 at 17:46
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@JSBangs: I think some people (including linguists at the Language Log, but also naïve students) have the wrong idea about these "rules". Implicitly, each of them is preceded by "In the author's opinion", and followed by "Ignore them and use your own good sense". Orwell was simply reacting to the excesses he felt he saw at the time in publications he read; these "rules" must be seen in context, interpreted with your own good judgement, are not treated as (or criticised for failing to be) timeless and universal precepts! –  ShreevatsaR Aug 11 '10 at 17:55
    
Actually, I rather like #3 as well, but #6 is most definitely the class of the list. –  T.E.D. Oct 27 '11 at 13:22
    
The Economist's online component is quite limited; I highly recommend the printed book. Not only direct and to the point, but funny! –  Neil Fein Mar 28 '12 at 15:41
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The Grauniad, Observer and guardian.co.uk style guide.

"No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft." - HG Wells

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Also on Twitter: twitter.com/guardianstyle –  Hugo Oct 27 '11 at 10:16
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For someone doing technical writing for the US Gov't, I have to recommend NASA SP-7084: Grammar, Punctuation, and Capitalization: A Handbook for Technical Writers and Editors.

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There are a few out there but some tend to be industry specific. The best general, free and online style guide that I know of is the Wikipedia: Manual of Style. Here are some others: The BBC News Style Guide, Apple Publications Style Guide and Yahoo! Style Guide (this one is pretty good).

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I went through my Editing > Style Guides bookmarks folder, here's what I found:

  • The Yahoo! Style Guide, despite having bit of a! silly! name!, is an easy-to-understand resource, particularly for non-writers. I recommended to a non-profit client I have; they seem to like it. (One caveat: It focuses as much on coding and interface as it does on language.)

  • As VonC mentioned, the Economist Style Guide is both well-regarded and easy to understand. The print version is purported to be more thorough than the online, free version. (I haven't used it much yet, but it looks to be sound after taking a quick dip in the site.)

  • Onlinestylebooks.com lets you search through a boatload of style manuals. (Some results seem to link to subscription sites, but many do not.) The links to the Chicago Q&A columns and AP's Ask the Editor feature are outside their paywalls.

  • Jack Lynch's Guide to Grammar and Style is a good reference (although I disagree with a few things in it).

In addition to traditional style guides, You can also refer people to pages from some of the excellent grammar blogs out there: Grammar Girl is the only one I know of with a large enough backlog to search through, although others might be able to add to this. Slate also has good grammar and style columns from time to time, like this piece on why one should not type two spaces after a period.

Also, keep in mind that many older books about style and grammar are now available online, for example, the 1906 Chicago Manual of Style. (Use with caution; I'm not finding early versions of Chicago or AP there, and surprisingly, I also don't see the 1926 edition of Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage there.)

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Heh. Someone read The Register I see... –  T.E.D. Oct 27 '11 at 13:23
    
@PeterTaylor - Updated the Slate link. –  Neil Fein Oct 27 '11 at 15:52
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You can find 88 style guides listed at OnlineStylebooks.com, 70 of which are indexed for search.

OnlineStylebooks.com is owned and maintained by Mary Beth Protomastro, the founder of Copyediting newsletter, the copy chief of More magazine and former editor of the Time magazine stylebook. OnlineStylebooks.com is not affiliated with any of those publications.

Mary Beth created OnlineStylebooks.com to help copy editors (including herself) quickly consult a variety of style guides. If you know of a manual that’s on the Internet but not on OnlineStylebooks.com, please tell Mary Beth!

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