EU - Writing Tools

EU Writing Tools

One of more the more interesting products of the EU are the guidance documents they produce on language. They are the Interinstitutional Style Guide and the English Style Guide.

The EU’s Interinstitutional Style Guide

The first one is the Interinstitutional Style Guide. It does what it says on the tin: it states how texts of the European Union must be written.

It also contains a wealth of information on the EU institutions and how to refer to them properly. I find this very practical when writing applications, writing news articles and so on.

The document is in active development, and development versions are published relatively frequently. This explains why I mention Czechia in another article on this site 😄

EU English Style Guide

The EU English Style Guide is a bigger document, that you can access and download via this link. The Style Guide was originally developed for translators and authors working for the EU, but now serves a wider audience, both inside and outside the EU, native and non-native speakers. The Style Guide is published by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Translation.

Style guide for consistency

One of the main reasons for me to use this document, is to tell others what spelling to use, and how dates should be spelled, i.e. to set linguistic conventions. Unfortunately, the automatic language detection in Microsoft Word often detects American English, which is not suitable for EU texts.

As it is an objective source, it is an elegant way to avoid semantic discussions. Of course, many texts still need quite a few edits for coherence, but less.

Style guide for clarity

The document discussed suggestions on direct and quick formulations, without excessive use of formal constructions, or of course colloquialisms, and passive voice. After all, documents should convey their meaning clearly and without ambiguity.

The Style Guide also has many suggestions of expressions to avoid because they may have negative connotations or because sentences are just clearer without them. Just think of the the expression ‘so-called’. Furthermore, stringing many sentences together using commas (instead of splitting them) is often difficult to comprehend, and so are double consonants and vowels (anti-intellectural, re-examine, part-time).

Style guide for non-native speakers

Besides making texts easier to read for all readers, the suggestions are particularly valuable to non-native speakers of English who do have a good knowledge of the language. They can find all sorts of reasons why a certain spelling is used over another, or guidance on Americanisms.

Further documents and style guids are available

The EU puts out more documents that can help in writing legible texts that serve a pan-European (or, indeed, a global) readership.

  • Country Compendium - this document is a companion to the English Style Guide. For each EU Member State, (and some other countries) it provides English terms and translations. Usually it discusses the country’s name, official language(s) and parliament, followed by notes on geography, judicial bodies and legal instruments. For some countries, there is further iformation, usually of a more legal nature, such as government bodies, administrative divisions, law gazettes, and official journals.
  • Misused English words and expressions in EU publications - as the title suggests, this document discusses mis-used words (often word pairs). Good for comparing diary and agenda, instance and body, or to transmit versus to send.
  • Writing for the Web - guidance from the European Commission on how to write clear and concise texts for the web. I find this helpful for conveying messages from EU projects, which often have complex messages that need to be disseminated to a large audience (disseminated is euro-jargon for spreading something -typically information- widely).

Most big organisations (or popular websites, for that matter) use style guides. For example, the Wikipedia Foundation or IBM publish writing tools. Some style guides are so well-known that they deserve a Wikipedia entry themselves! The EU is the only one however that puts out style guides for so many languages, making it a unique resource to those who deal with many (European) languages in sequence.

Front Cover Interinstitutional Style Guide

Wian Stienstra
ICT, Strategy, Marketing and More
comments powered by Disqus