As a copywriter who’s been involved in many sets of design guidelines, I agree with Judy Delin (DW 3 October) that there should be more detail in the language section of these manuals.
The more detail we go into, the more chance we have of making a particular brand’s language unique. But I’m not sure I would go quite as far as she suggests.
Can we really lay down guidelines on the ins and outs of grammar in the same way as we do for colour, typeface and imagery? There’s an important difference between designing and writing: design is carried out by trained designers, whereas writing can be done by almost anyone.
As Delin says, communications can be in the hands of hundreds or thousands of staff members – would they all know a relative clause when they see one? I think not. In fact, even people who write every day for a living can get by quite nicely without analysing every preposition and participle.
And even if we were a nation of linguistics experts, would clients pay for the amount of work that would have to go into creating language guidelines at the level she suggests?
Maybe a more realistic and user-friendly solution would be to lead by example and lay down some basic guidelines.