Writers hate them. Editors love them. And as we provide both services, I often sit in the middle and sort out the arguments.
Many of the organisations we work for have their own style guide. They are given to us to ensure that the documents we write and edit conform in terms of what phrases to use and not to use, spelling, capitalisation and presentation.
We have quite a few of them stored away on our systems. Some are good. Some indifferent. You’d be surprised how much they differ from each other.
Of course, language evolves and changes so organisations have to update their style guides from time to time.
And how they update them tells you a lot about the organisation and the values they hold.
I was intrigued…it’s not often that editorial style hits the news pages.
Then I read what all the fuss was about.
The Guardian is no longer using the term “climate change”. It is now favouring the term “climate emergency” or “crisis”. “Global warming” is being replaced by “global heating”.
There’s a clear logic to this. Language is rarely objective and the words used portray the views and motives of those speaking them (or writing in this case).
In the words of Catherine Viner, The Guardian’s Editor, “the term ‘climate change’ … sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity”.
The style itself states that the label ‘climate change’ is no longer considered to accurately reflect the seriousness of the situation.
The old terms aren’t banned from The Guardian, but these new terms are now the preferred choice of the newspaper.
Although the news-piece and change in house style sent a pretty blunt message, how language is used and what it infers is often quite subtle.
I was quite startled by this article. Not because I disagreed with it. But because the newspaper had chosen to highlight what us writers and editors knew all along … that words are important.