Writing would be much easier to do and understand if there were hard and fast grammar rules that never change or fluctuate. Yet that would also make it a lot less fun and interesting … which would mean that there would be fewer writers, editors, and readers in the world.
If you write, edit, or proofread for a living, you’ve probably encountered at least one scenario where you’ve had to change or adjust the grammar rules and guidelines you’ve followed. And it was probably because you started writing, editing, or proofreading something for a different type of profession or industry.
Do you know how grammar rules can vary across different professions? Keep reading to learn more.
Marketing and Advertising
In marketing and advertising, everything you write should be about connecting with an audience and addressing what’s important to them. Often, slang and colloquialisms should be and are used in marketing and advertising copy. And you’ll often notice that some traditional grammar rules are bent or broken altogether. For instance, in order to connect better with an audience, a marketer or advertiser might end a sentence with a preposition, begin a sentence with a conjunction, or split an infinitive. Read Grammar Rules You Can and Should Break in Your Marketing Copy for more details.
Business and Finance
Like marketing and advertising copy, business and finance copy should also always be centered around its intended audience. However, business documents and communications are written and edited with the understanding that all facts, figures, and statements must be verified multiple times so that they’re accurate and concise. Colloquialisms and slang are generally not tolerated in business documents, and the passive voice should never be used, as clarity and conciseness are important for overall efficiency. Additionally, many businesses create their own in-house style guides to follow, which may or may not adhere to the popular published style guides. So it’s quite possible and even common for different businesses (even within the same industry) to follow different grammar rules and guidelines according to their own style and branding and as they see fit.
Technical writing serves a specific purpose and should always be clear, direct, and concise. So, like business writing, technical writing should never include the passive voice. It should also have a format that is easy to follow and well organized, especially if it is published on the web. And plain language should be used, so metaphors and hard-to-understand acronyms, words, and confusing clauses should never appear (even if they are used in accordance with more traditional grammar rules). Review the 10 Commandments of Technical Writing and consider the grammar rules and elements included in Microsoft’s Style Guide and Apple’s Style Guide.
Journalism and Publishing
Fact-checking and verifying sources and evidence should be the most important part of the journalism and publishing industries. So, editors and proofreaders need to verify that a written piece flows well for its readers and that it is accurate. Journalism and publishing industries typically rely on the same style guides—either the Chicago Manual of Style or the Associated Press Stylebook.
Journalists should keep sentences and paragraphs relatively short, and whenever possible use the subject-verb-object formula. They should cut unnecessary words, including many adjectives and adverbs, and avoid complex words and descriptions when simpler ones will do. The first person “I” is generally never used in news stories or articles that aren’t based on opinions. And the Oxford comma is typically not used by journalists either.
On the other hand, novelists and manuscript writers for fictional works often do use a lot of adjectives and descriptive language, complex language and sentence structure, etc. Parallel structures and consistency are still critical for fictional works.
Academia and Research
Just as in business, the style guides and grammar rules that various disciplines in academia follow can vary greatly. While researchers, students, and professionals in the humanities tend to follow the Modern Language Association (MLA) format, psychology researchers follow the American Psychological Association (APA) style guide, and scientists typically follow the Council of Science Editors Documentation Style (CSE), and so on.
While style guides vary greatly for various researchers based on their fields and areas of study, they are typically designed and adhered to for proper in-text citations and so that resources are documented properly. Yet, they all can still have very different rules and guidelines for grammar. For instance, numbers, formulas, and computations will be written and included in different formats in science-based documents whereas documents written for a history-based research paper will usually stick with figures spelled out.
Do you think there are any other grammar rules that change based on one’s profession or document type? Leave a comment below.